Ray Breaks 222 To Lead Final Day Of Indy Open Test
April 13, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Ray's lap of 222.833 mph in the No. 1 Dallara/Oldsmobile on another cool - but sunny - day at the Speedway established him as fastest overall for the test, and an early favorite to win the pole for the 84th Indianapolis 500.
"The feel in the car is quite different here than it was in 1998 and 1999," said Ray, the 1999 Indy Racing League champion. "It's a new chassis so our setups don't cross over. As I get happy and get in that comfort zone with the car - kind of that warm and fuzzy feeling there - we can get down to business on making the car go faster.
"I just look at it in the fact we're trying real hard. We set our goals. I don't look at it as being a favorite. The top priority is trying to win the race."
Last year Ray, of Plano, Texas, narrowly lost the pole to Arie Luyendyk. Luyendyk, who drove for Treadway Racing and retired from open wheel racing after the Indy 500, qualified at a four-lap average of 225.179, while Ray had to settle for second starting position at 225.073.
Pole Day for the 2000 Indianapolis 500 is May 20.
Scott Sharp and Eddie Cheever Jr. put their names in the running as well, with late day runs around the hallowed 2.5-mile Speedway of 222.343 and 222.162, respectively, placing them second and third on the speed chart for the test.
Cheever is the only driver using the Nissan Infiniti and is trying to provide the engine manufacturer with both its first pole and race victory in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series.
Jason Leffler was fourth fastest at 221.125 in a Treadway Racing backup car, while Mark Dismore, Sharp's Kelley Racing teammate, was fifth at 218.558.
Leffler, who won the pole for the Joe Gibbs' NASCAR Busch Series team at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, completed a refresher test at the Speedway Tuesday. He had not turned laps at the Speedway since October 1998.
"I've just always liked coming here to Indianapolis," Leffler said. "It's a big advantage coming here with Treadway, because of all the team's experience, especially here at Indy. The car was stable all day."
Wednesday also saw Casey Mears and Guy Smith complete the Rookie Orientation Program. Mears is the son of two-time Indy 500 starter Roger Mears and nephew of four-time winner Rick Mears.
Smith will have a busy month, as he plans to compete at the 24 Hours of LeMans in the World Sports Cars class. Eight drivers passed the rookie test, and are eligible to participate in Indy 500 practice and qualifications when the track reopens on May 13.
Other drivers who passed the test earlier in the week were Sam Hornish Jr., Ross Cheever (brother of Eddie Cheever Jr.), Airton Dare, Memo Gidley, Shigeaki Hattori and Sarah Fisher.
Doug Didero, Russ Gamester and Andy Hillenburg completed three phases of the test, and can take the final segment when the track reopens
for Indianapolis 500 practice.