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One shot good enough
Failing inspection can't keep Ray from VisionAire poll
Posted: Friday April 30, 1999 10:51 PM
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- Failing pre-qualifying inspection proved to be no hindrance at all to Greg Ray, who roared back to win the pole for the VisionAire 500 in record fashion Friday night.
After getting his Dallara Aurora re-examined by Indy Racing League inspectors, Ray recorded a speed of 222.039 mph, the fastest lap ever run at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Ray broke the track record of 220.498 set one year ago by Tony Stewart, the driver Ray followed with Team Menard.
It was the second consecutive pole for Ray, but it came only after his team resolved an issue of improper ground clearance with IRL inspectors. Ray said his machine's ground clearance was found to be off by one-hundredth of an inch.
"It was kind of strange," Ray said. "We made a measurement change, and it didn't pass tech."
The problem was discovered after Ray recorded the fastest speed in practice, a 221.657. Ray's failure to pass inspection meant he was limited to just one qualifying lap instead of two like everyone else.
"I didn't like having one lap," he said. "That's not hardly fair."
Ray edged Scott Sharp and Scott Goodyear, the series points leader after two of 11 races, to give Team Menard its third pole in as many IRL races on Charlotte's 1.5-mile, high-banked layout.
"I just tried to get around here as quick as I could and hope it was good enough," he said.
Sharp and Goodyear both broke the track record as well in the lone round of qualifying for Saturday night's race. Sharp had a 221.239 and Goodyear a 221.076 on a cool evening when rain delayed qualifying and high wind made it more difficult.
"It's very hard to be completely consistent," Goodyear said. "You feel like you're being moved around the track a whole lot. It feels like it can move you as much as a half car-length to either side, and that's certainly not something that would be good in the race."
Ray, however, said the rough surface of Charlotte's trioval is generally enough to outweigh other factors like wind, heat and humidity.
"People were paranoid about what the weather would do to the race cars," Ray said, "but at this track and others like it, with the bumps and everything else, it's always like trying to fly a fighter plane in a gymnasium with all the turbulence."
Qualifying began an hour late because of delays caused by four days of often heavy rain in the region. Thursday's practice sessions were wiped out by the storms, and there originally was some thought that Friday's lone scheduled round of time trials would also become a casualty.
Since this is the circuit's first stop of the year at a high-banked superspeedway, IRL officials considered eliminating qualifying in favor of practice time to help the teams adjust to the speeds. Track officials, however, employed some unique methods to salvage a practice session and still leave enough time for qualifying.
Once it became apparent that the water seepage and runoff was especially heavy in the fourth turn, the speedway dispatched crews to the area to seek a two-pronged solution. Workers drilled 2-foot-deep holes into the track and used heavy-duty concrete saws to cut small grooves that channeled the water off the 24-degree banking.
A short while later, the track was opened for nearly two hours of practice. The only problem reported during the session didn't involve water, but rookie Johnny Unser. He slowed while running in traffic, collecting the machines of Andy Michner and Jeff Ward. No one was hurt and no major damage was reported.
Friday's water seepage wasn't the first at a Speedway Motorsports Inc.-owned track. Water leaking up through the pavement also created problems last year at Texas Motor Speedway, but in that case, the problem was tied to poor drainage design, and SMI officials spent several million dollars to redesign and rebuild the track.
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