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Notebook: Where's Greg Ray?

Ever since Greg Ray was fired by team owner John Menard two weeks ago, he has not been to either IRL race since that time. Ray was the 1999 IRL champion and is considered one of the fastest drivers in Indy car racing, but has gone into hiding while he tries to sort out his career.

His fellow competitors, however, believe that Ray is an outstanding race driver and he needs to be back in the series.

"Sometimes, the chemistry in a team just goes wrong," said Eddie Cheever. "I think in that team, it just went wrong. It is undeniable that Greg Ray is one of the fastest drivers that has come through the IRL and he specialises in qualifying. That does not lead to being a race winner or a race driver. I think something just went wrong in the way they were running the team and it was wise for both of them to part ways.

"Would I consider running Greg Ray in a car?" continued Cheever. "Probably, if I had enough time to work with him in the way he approaches the race. Would he bring a lot to a race car team? Yes, he would. Should he be in the IRL? Yes, he would. But this is an open economy. You stay in business because you are profitable and if you are a race driver that is winning races, teams look for you."

Cheever understands team owner John Menard, because he once drove for his team and was fired in 1996.

"John Menard is not prone to hanging around when it is time to make a decision," Cheever said. "I was fired by John Menard in 1996 and he gave me one of his cars to help me start my own team."

Menard said he may even put Ray in a second Team Menard entry at Texas Motor Speedway, but that decision depends on how well the team does in Sunday's race at Chicagoland Speedway.

"It's certainly a possibility, but we have to get through this race because we've had a rough season as far as cars are concerned," Menard said. "We have to have all the wheels on Jaques car to even consider a second car at Texas Motor Speedway."


After he was the fastest driver in Friday's practice session, Robbie Buhl qualified fourth with a lap at 220.631 miles per hour.

"I was hoping for an all Infiniti front row with Eddie Cheever Jr and myself, but obviously Menard's guys had something up their sleeves," Buhl said after Team Menard driver Jaques Lazier won the pole. "That's not unusual. It's the race that matters, and I am not worried about them (Menard's team) in the race. The Purex car is an excellent race car, and the Infiniti power has shown great reliability. We just need to win one."


Buddy Lazier's bid for a second-consecutive IRL title was derailed last weekend when engine problems at the start of the race saw his 25-point gap to point's leader Sam Hornish Jr increased to 45. Lazier must finish ahead of Hornish in Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 to have a chance of staying in the title race in the season-finale at Texas Motor Speedway on September 16.

"One race can't lose the championship unless it's the last race," Lazier said. "We are still in this. One race isn't going to kill the championship for you either way."


Richie Hearn is back in the driver's seat at Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He drove for the team at Pikes Peak International Raceway after the Schmidt's regular driver, Davey Hamilton, suffered serious leg injuries in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hearn qualified 20th in the 25-car field.

"I went flat out all the way around," Hearn said. "There is not much else I can do. I ran quite a bit faster in practice, so I don't know why I was that slow. This track is easy. It's pretty much flat out. It all comes down to horsepower. There is only so much you can do to a car. I probably need a little more power, but we will take what we have. We will just try to be there at the end and see what we get."

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