ATLANTA - Greg Ray lit up the first night race of the season as Team Menard's Conseco Oldsmobile Dallara dominated the Midas 500 Classic at Atlanta Motor Speedway from start to finish. Ray started on the pole after qualifying nearly 3 mph faster...
ATLANTA - Greg Ray lit up the first night race of the season as Team Menard's Conseco Oldsmobile Dallara dominated the Midas 500 Classic at Atlanta Motor Speedway from start to finish. Ray started on the pole after qualifying nearly 3 mph faster than his closest competitor, and his "Menard Missile" was simply untouchable in the 320-mile race.
Ray, the reigning IRL champion, led 182 of 208 laps, breaking an 11-month victory drought and scoring the first win of his IRL career on a 1.5-mile speedway. He collected 55 points, the maximum possible, and gained eight places in the championship standings. Ray became the seventh different winner in seven IRL races this year.
"There's no doubt we had a great motor in the race car," said Ray, who raced with the same 3.5-liter Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 that set the pace in qualifying. "Butch Meyer and the engine department have done a wonderful job. We've made a lot of changes to find horsepower, and to make it dependable horsepower."
Ray was a rocket on restarts, routinely racing three-wide after yellow flags. Twice he was able to retake the lead after losing track position during prolonged pit stops. "Our focus tonight was to be quick on the restart," he said. "The car was superb."
Buddy Lazier parlayed his second runner-up finish of the season in Hemelgarn Racing's Delta Oldsmobile Dallara into a 23-point lead in the championship race. "It was a hard-fought battle," said Lazier, who won in Phoenix. "We were running wide open, lap after lap."
Al Unser Jr. started at the back of the grid in Galles ECR Racing's Tickets.com Oldsmobile G-Force after a troubled qualifying run, but drove through the field to finish third, less than a car length behind Lazier. "Nothing was going to catch Greg Ray tonight - he was super fast," Unser conceded. "My best run tonight was at the finish, but I just couldn't catch Buddy for second."
Ray's dominant performance in Atlanta served notice that he will be a factor in the final two events of the season on 1.5-mile ovals - and that Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 is still the powerhouse in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series.
<pre> Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval Winner: Greg Ray, Team Menard Conseco Oldsmobile Dallara Margin of Victory: 3.054 seconds Average Speed: 153.403 mph
Top Five Finishers: Pos./Driver/Engine Laps 1. Greg Ray/Oldsmobile 208 2. Buddy Lazier/Oldsmobile 208 3. Al Unser Jr./Oldsmobile 208 4. Robby McGehee/Oldsmobile 208 5. Donnie Beechler/Oldsmobile 207
Pole: Greg Ray/Oldsmobile, 216.104 mph Fastest Lap: Donnie Beechler/Oldsmobile, 214.626 mph
Manufacturer Results: Oldsmobile Infiniti Laps Led 207 1 Starters 23 2 Running at Finish 13 1
POINT STANDINGS: (After 7 of 9 events) Driver/Engine Wins Points 1. Buddy Lazier/Olds 1 208 2. Eddie Cheever/Infiniti 1 185 3. Scott Goodyear/Olds 0 175 4. Scott Sharp/Olds 1 173 (tie) Eliseo Salazar/Olds 0 173
Manufacturer Wins Points 1. Oldsmobile 6 72* 2. Nissan 1 52 *Clinched championship
NEXT RACE: Belterra Resort Indy 300, Kentucky Speedway, Florence, Ky., August 27