Greg Ray totally dominated the Midas 500 Classic at the Atlanta International Raceway on Saturday night but the performance came too late to save his title hopes.
If it wasn't the fact that Greg Ray led a staggering 182 laps of a possible 208 that signified his complete control of Saturday's Midas 500 Classic, then it was the style in which he led them.
As the sun set over the Atlanta skyline, Ray's Team Menard Dallara-Aurora was majestic as the 1999 Indy Racing Northern Light Series Champion guided his green and yellow mount away from the rest of the IRNLS field as he liked.
As dusk turned to night, Ray sparkled under the floodlights, twice cutting through the leaders with ease to regain the lead he lost during the pit-stops. Once back in the lead, Ray was always able to pull away almost at will, at times opening up a staggering 18 seconds lead over his nearest pursuers.
The joyous scenes in the Menard garage after the race were tempered with the feeling that if only the team had gelled as a unit earlier in the year, they could be looking at a second IRNLS title. Sadly for Ray, his dismal season thus far has rendered it impossible for him to retain his title and from Saturday onwards, all results are simply acts of damage limitation.
Almost as expected Ray led the 25 car field away from pole position and quickly opened up a sizeable lead. Many people thought that Ray couldn't sustain his searing pace for the entire race and that something would break, be it the car or driver, not many realised that it was a sign of things to come.
For those people hoping for a lead battle akin to the Texas race earlier this year, Ray's dominance was a minor disappointment although the rest of the field did their best to keep the sadly sparse crowd on their feet for the entire race.
First to give chase to Ray were third placed starter Donnie Beechler and impressive rookie Jeret Schroeder. Theses two had opened up a small gap back to the squabbling pack who were running side by side from fourth place almost back to last.
Ray's expanding lead was pegged back after only 15 laps when Airton Dare's impressive run came to an end with the loss of another engine. The Team Xtreme driver spun to a halt on the entrance to Turn One after oil and water from the grenaded unit found its way onto his rear tyres. Little did the young Brazilian know that he was simply setting the trend for others to follow.