Ray captures record 12th pole at PPIR

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2001

FOUNTAIN, Colo. -- Greg Ray added to his IRL record, capturing his 12th career pole position in qualifying for Sunday's Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Shrugging off blistering temperatures Saturday, Ray went 176.585 mph on his fastest of two laps to beat out Scott Sharp, who now has qualified in the front row in three straight races and who won last week's event in Texas.

Sharp had a best lap of 174.795.

Drivers and crews were hampered by an air temperature of 95 degrees and a track temperature of 142 degrees.

''I think it's expected to be at least three to five degrees warmer (Sunday),'' Ray said, ''so the track temperature could easily get to 150 degrees. That's very, very tough on race cars, drivers and tires.

''When this track was pretty new, in 1997 or 1998, the surface temperature got to 155 degrees, and that's as hot as any tire manufacturer has seen. Once it goes beyond 140, it's really tough.''

Ray, 34, of Plano, Texas, has enjoyed considerable success at PPIR, winning four poles and two races.

''I have no idea,'' Ray said when asked to explain his good fortune here. ''I know we have a vastly different qualifying setup and race car setup than we had two years ago. It's a combination of everything. We have good people, good setups, good motors.

''And I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the race track itself. It takes that little bit of confidence and feel of the race track to be that last little bit of quick. We've just been very fortunate.''

Ray also has made a habit of vacationing in the area with his family during the week leading up to the race.

''We always spend a week of vacation here,'' he said. ''We go hiking, do all the great things there are to do here.''

Sam Hornish Jr., the IRL season standings leader, will start on the inside of the second row after qualifying at 174.589. Robbie Buhl will be beside him at 174.213.

Buddy Lazier and Mark Dismore will occupy the third row after qualifying at 173.566 and 173.494, respectively.

Japan's Shigeaki Hattori spun and tapped the wall on his second qualifying lap, but his first lap of 173.169 put him in the fourth row. That car is expected to be repaired in time for the race.

Hattori, who earlier in the day brushed the wall in practice with his other car, was taken to Penrose Hospital for observation after his second mishap.

Jaques Lazier also spun out on a warmup lap but failed to hit anything, and he came back later to qualify at 171.783 for a spot in the seventh row.

Sarah Fisher had a slow warmup time in her first qualifying attempt. She pulled in, had a fuel injector problem corrected and returned to the track, qualifying in the eighth row at 170.716.

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