Ray takes pole at Pikes Peak

Greg Ray didn't break the previous track record at Pikes Peak International Raceway, he smashed it to smithereens

Ray takes pole at Pikes Peak

Ray won the pole Saturday for Sunday's Radisson Indy 200 IRL race with a lap at 179.874 miles per hour. That topped the previous record of 178.571 miles per hour set by Billy Boat in 1998.

Boat won his pole with a 4.0-litre engine. Ray captured the pole Saturday in a 3.5-litre Oldsmobile Aurora in a Dallara chassis.

Ray also decimated the field in Saturday's qualifying at the 1.0-mile oval as the second-fastest driver, Robbie Buhl, was clocked at 175.362 miles per hour. Ray was over 4 mph faster than his nearest competitor.

When Ray approached the media centre after winning the pole, two reporters jokingly asked him if he had the 4.0-litre engine in his race car rather than the smaller, less powerful, 3.5-litre.

Ray didn't take kindly to that joke.

"If you guys think what we have done is illegal, then go tear down the engine and tell me what it measures," Ray snapped. "I really don't want you guys to go that way. That's pretty offensive to my team. The motor we qualified in is the motor we are going to race. Regardless of where we finish in the race, you can be the first ones to come over and do a displacement test on it.

"The guys have worked very, very hard. Last year at Phoenix, we had the field covered by 3 miles an hour. We try to focus on two programs - the race program and one on the qualifying program. I'll be the first one to tell you today blew us all away. It was pretty spectacular."

It was Ray's third Indy Racing Northern Light Series pole of the season.

Ray's dominant pole speed was met with tremendous skepticism in the garage area at Pikes Peak International Raceway by other IRL competitors, especially because Ray was not among the fastest drivers in practice.

"We could have a $100 million budget and test here for two full weeks and not come close to that lap," said Mark Dismore, who will start third with a lap at 175.055 mph. "It kind of makes you wonder where they found all of that speed all of a sudden."

Ray said comments like that are an insult to his crew's efforts.

"That really riles me when I hear something like that," Ray said. "But then, it's almost a compliment when people think we are cheating because it shows how fast we are running."

Buhl was on the pole with a lap at 175.362 mph in a G Force/Infiniti package before Ray knocked him off.

"That was a pretty stout run by Greg," Buhl said. "We felt pretty good with our car going into qualifying and we knew Greg would have something. Team Menard always does. They are a great organisation. But to see that jump of a half-second is pretty stout."

Buhl is hoping to give the Infiniti engine its first victory in the IRL.

"The Infiniti motor has come a long way," Buhl said. "This is the same engine motor that we ran at Texas and qualified with and we will keep this one in our car for the race, too. We've been really happy with our switchover. When we got our second 2000 G Force, we fitted that with an Infiniti at Indianapolis. We put Steve Knapp in that car and did well.

"Ever since we have run the Infiniti, we haven't missed a beat with it. That says a lot with where the program is and where it can go right now. After seeing where Steve Knapp and Eddie Cheever finished at Indianapolis, both those motors looked great, so we are very happy with the switch."

Ray has been fast all season, but the defending IRL champion is currently 18th in the IRL standings, 94 points behind the leader, Buddy Lazier.

"I'm at the same point mentally right now that I was at this time last year,' Ray said. "We are so far down in points. The team has performed well in qualifying and we have had good race set-ups, but things haven't gone our way.

"Our guys deserve a win. It would be a big momentum builder for the team to go through the summer months. But I just want to go out there and do the best job we can on that lap. Then, do better on the next lap. If we keep doing that, eventually we are going to get a win."

Ray won his seventh career pole, tying him with Tony Stewart for the second-most poles in IRL history. Boat holds the record for the most career pole with eight.

Scott Sharp, who won the closest race in IRL history last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, starts third at 174.953 mph followed by Jeret Schroeder at 174.216 mph.

"We made about four or five changes just gambling on the track conditions," Ray said. "We knew Robbie would be quick. We knew the Infiniti was running well and made some educated guesses. We guessed right and the stars lined up perfectly for us.

"I knew what the set-up was and knew what our gearing was. I knew before I ever came across it was a fast lap. You can almost guess how fast you are going. It was such a good lap, I almost didn't want to do a second lap. I held by breath for another lap and went a hair quicker."

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