IRL: Ray takes Texas pole

FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2000 -- Greg Ray rocketed to the two fastest laps of qualifying Saturday to win the MBNA Pole for Sunday's Excite 500 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. ...

FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2000 -- Greg Ray rocketed to the two fastest laps of qualifying Saturday to win the MBNA Pole for Sunday's Excite 500 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. That put Buddy Lazier one step closer to winning his first Northern Light Cup championship and a $1 million postseason check although he qualified sixth fastest and didn't collect a qualifying bonus point. Now he only needs to finish 14th or better to wrap up the title over Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr., his only challengers. Ray blasted around the 1.5-mile oval with consecutive lap speeds of 215.290 and 215.352 mph in his Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone machine. The time for the quickest lap was 24.323 seconds, which was .109 of a second quicker than fellow front-row starter Goodyear. Goodyear's speed was 214.391 in the Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. The Excite 500 starts at 1 p.m. (CDT) Sunday. Goodyear came to this race trailing Lazier in the standings by 38 points, 258-220. Though Goodyear now has 222, Lazier needs to finish one position less than the 13th required before qualifying to assure the championship no matter what Goodyear does in the race. If Goodyear wins Sunday and adds the two bonus points for leading the most laps, he would finish with 274. A 14th place for Lazier also would provide 274 points, and he would claim the title because he would have two wins to Goodyear's one. Cheever qualified only 10th fastest in the #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Even if he would win and lead the most laps, Lazier needs only to place 19th or better to eliminate Cheever since Lazier has the edge on a 269-point tie, also. Both would have two wins, but Lazier has the most second-place finishes for the tie-breaker. "It's going to be an interesting day," said Lazier, driver of the Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "We're going to focus on our game. It would be a great way to end the season with a victory. The money doesn't even equal half of what the championship means." Ray, the defending series champion from Plano, Texas, will be tough to run down since only Goodyear was within 1 mph of Ray's speed. The second row consists of Jeff Ward at 213.074 and Al Unser Jr. at 212.633. "We've got a good car and want to have a good race," Goodyear said. "We're going after points. In Kentucky, we led the most laps and we hope to do that here." Ray, meanwhile, is trying to salvage a disappointing season that shows 299 laps led but only one victory, a dominating performance at Atlanta. He won from the pole there. "Everything has to click like a V8 on all eight cylinders," he said. "We hope to have a good race." Ray earned his fifth MBNA Pole of the season. It also was the ninth of his career, breaking a tie for the series record that he held with Billy Boat. "I'm pleased but not surprised," Ray said, "because that was what we were working for." Ray already is set to drive a third season for Menard, whose drivers have won 19 career Indy Racing Northern Light Series poles. Goodyear, meanwhile, ends his stint with the Pennzoil Panther Racing team with Sunday's race. He is undecided about his future but has a solid offer to drive for Cheever next season in the Northern Light Series. "Cheever surprised me yesterday (Friday) with his offer," Goodyear said. "Right now, we're just talking about it." Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Unser turned in a season-best qualifying run in his Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. He grabbed the pole as the fourth qualifier and hung onto it until Ray took the top spot as the 14th qualifier. Goodyear shoved Unser into the second row and Ward, as the final qualifier, moved him to the outside of the second row. It was the first time all season that Unser has qualified in the top 10, as his ninth-place starting spot in June at Texas was determined by the point standings after qualifying was rained out. "We gave it what we had in qualifying, and we're happy with our results," Unser said. Davey Hamilton qualified seventh at 212.254 mph driving the Western Star Trucks/PetroMoly Special for the first time to keep his streak alive of participating in all 43 Indy Racing Northern Light Series events. Robby McGehee came back from his crash on Friday to join Hamilton on the outside of the fourth row.

EXCITE 500 NOTEBOOK

On the air: The Excite 500 will be televised on a same-day delayed basis on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on ESPN2. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute pre-race show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. The area IRRN affiliate is WBAP-AM 820, Arlington, Texas. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com.

*** Tickets: Tickets for the Excite 500 are available by calling Texas Motor Speedway at (817) 215-8500, through Ticketmaster outlets or at Ticketmaster Online at www.ticketmaster.com . Ticket information is available at www.texasmotorspeedway.com .

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear
Teams Panther Racing