IRL: Ward fastest in Texas practice

FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, Oct. 13, 2000 -- On Friday the 13th, drivers Jeff Ward and Greg Ray put a speed whammy on the three contenders for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship as they prepared for the season-ending Excite...

FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, Oct. 13, 2000 -- On Friday the 13th, drivers Jeff Ward and Greg Ray put a speed whammy on the three contenders for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship as they prepared for the season-ending Excite 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Ward muscled his Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone machine around Ray to the top of the speed chart when he caught a tow from Scott Goodyear, ripping off a quick lap of 215.343 mph late in the day's second session. That exceeded Ray's morning best of 215.237. "Did you get a tow or what?" joked Goodyear to Ward after practice. Ward agreed that catching Goodyear exiting the pits and following him around provided a speed jump from the 213.796-mph lap he ran alone in the morning. Ray said he did his best lap with a tow, also. "I had a practice motor in, and we'll put the qualifying engine in tomorrow," Ward said. "The gearing will be different, and we'll be out there by ourselves. Usually, I don't want to draft, but today I wanted to practice race conditions." Ray, of nearby Plano, Texas, also had the day's third fastest lap of 214.972 mph in his backup car. He drives the Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone and is the league's defending champion. Those speeds pushed Goodyear to third, Eddie Cheever Jr. to eighth and Buddy Lazier to 11th on the driver overall speed list heading into MBNA Pole Qualifying at noon (CDT) Saturday. Goodyear, hoping to overtake points leader Lazier, squeezed in a 214.637-mph lap in the early practice. Driving the Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, he needs to make up 38 points in qualifying and the race to beat out Lazier, the veteran from Vail, Colo, for the Northern Light Cup and its $1 million postseason payoff. Lazier, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, ran a best lap of 212.650 mph in his Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone in the morning and improved to 213.152 during the second practice, but still fell back on the speed chart. Eddie Cheever Jr., elevated his speed from 213.282 mph to 213.613 in his No. 51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone during the second practice but also tumbled on the speed chart. The fastest three drivers in qualifying earn three, two and one points, respectively. Goodyear and Cheever need every point available to stall Lazier's charge to his first championship, so a front row of Ray and Ward would be costly. "We're making a concerted effort to go after the pole," said Goodyear, who won his first MBNA Pole in the previous race at Kentucky Speedway. "I think Greg's time this morning came with a tow. We'll find out in qualifying, won' t we?" Lazier needs only to finish 13th to clinch the Northern Light Cup even if one of his two challengers should gain the maximum 55 points available this weekend. In addition to the three points for the pole, a driver can add another two for leading the most laps and 50 for winning. "It's a stressful weekend, I'm a little nervous," Lazier said. "These guys are tough. It would be very, very meaningful to me even if these guys are trying to take it away." Cheever emphasized that he isn't racing just the other two title challengers. "There are a lot of guys out there," he said. "Ray in the Menard car is trying to make something out of a not very good year." Cheever then revealed that he has asked Goodyear to drive for him next season. This race will be Goodyear's final one for Panther Racing, and he has not made a clear decision whether he wants to retire, drive part time in sports cars, only in the Indianapolis 500 or another full season in the Northern Light Series. "I don't know," Goodyear said. "I don't want to come back halfway. I was very pleased when Eddie called." Rounding out the top five individual speeds were Davey Hamilton at 214.312 and Stephan Gregoire at 213.909. Hamilton is seeking to extend his string of starts to a perfect 43 Indy Racing League races Robby McGehee tapped the outside retaining wall in Turn 4 in his Broadband Investment Group G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone car during the afternoon practice, the only incident of the day. McGehee was released without injury from the infield care center after X-rays were negative.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Goodyear , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing