Ray Retakes Indy Top Spot

He can go fast early or late. In the heat of the day or the cool of evening. Under overcast skies or with the sun bearing down. Basically, Greg Ray can go as fast as he wants anytime he wants.

That’s what makes him a favorite for the Indianapolis 500 pole Saturday. He did nothing to change that Thursday, topping the practice times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a 224.542 mph lap. He turned in that time in the heart of a warm afternoon at the 2.5-mile oval in Speedway, Ind.

Ray also put together a 223.267 mph lap 37 minutes after the green flag was thrown on the fifth practice day of the month.

As the day wore on, no one could top Ray’s afternoon lap, but several drivers turned in their best lap of the day in the final 10 minutes of practice.

Gil de Ferran put Penske Racing’s No. 66 Dallara-Aurora into the No. 2 spot with a lap at 223.579 mph. Jeff Ward covered the 2.5-mile oval at 223.432 mph in his No. 35 G Force-Aurora, good for third quickest of the day. Tony Stewart held down the fourth and fifth spots in Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 33 and No. 33T G Force-Auroras.

Arie Luyendyk was sixth at 223.009 mph in Treadway-Hubbard Racing’s No. 5 G Force-Aurora, and Michael Andretti put his struggles behind him with a lap at 222.927 mph in Team Green’s No. 39 Dallara-Aurora.

"Conditions are real good right now," Andretti said. "There’s a reason they call it Happy Hour."

With the weather forecast calling for rain Friday, many teams took advantage of the final few minutes of green time, with more than 20 cars on the track at times.

"I can’t get a clean lap out there," said Al Unser Jr., whose top lap was 220.017 mph in Galles Racing’s No. 3 G Force-Aurora. "What can I say, it’s 5 o’clock traffic out there."

Thursday’s Happy Hour began with the yellow flag flying.

Jeret Schroeder lost control of his No. 9 Dallara-Aurora on the entrance to Turn 2 and backed into the wall on the exit of Turn 2. The PDM Racing machine bounced off the wall and headed toward the runoff area on the backstretch, where it stopped before hitting the inside retaining wall.

The accident happened just a day after PDM got back into action after the team’s car was destroyed at Atlanta Motor Speedway on April 28.

"The car felt good. The car was completely neutral," Schroeder said. "I got into the middle of Turn 2 and it turned around."

The track went green at about 6:10 p.m. ET, setting up a busy final 50 minutes of practice. A succession of yellows for stalled cars, spin-outs and wall-brushes kept the majority of Happy Hour under yellow.

Earlier in the day, Jim Guthrie brought out the third accident-related yellow flag of the month when he lost control of his No. 27 Dallara-Aurora in the warmup lane between turns 1 and 2.

Guthrie had just began to pick up speed when his car darted to the left, sending him hard into the inside retaining wall in the short chute. His car struck the wall with the nose and right-front section of the car hard then turned, putting the back of the car into the retaining wall and briefly sending him off the ground. Guthrie’s Blueprint Racing machine ended up pointing toward the infield.

Guthrie pulled himself out of his car under his own power.

His accident came just a few minutes after Sam Hornish Jr. lost an engine, causing a lengthy yellow just 10 minutes into practice. Hornish eventually got back onto the track later in the practice session.

Practice for the Indy 500 resumes at noon Friday, weather permitting.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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