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Ray rekindles Atlanta romance.

For the second year in succession, Greg Ray and Team Menard were a class apart from the rest of the IRNLS field at the 1.5-mile, steeply banked Atlanta Motor Speedway in a race that saw one of the most memorable open-wheel crashes in recent memory.

Team Menard Dallara-Aurora driver Greg Ray led all but 16 laps of Saturday nights 200-lap Zmax 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway as he cruised to his first victory of the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series Championship and his first since Atlanta last July.

In control almost from the green light, Ray's luck and car held out for the first time this season and his 19 second margin of victory over Scott Sharp would have been increased to well over a lap but for his decision to dramatically cut his pace in the closing laps in an effort to avoid making a late race splash and dash for fuel as almost every one of the surviving cars dived onto pit-road inside the last 20-laps in order to ensure they had enough fuel to get to the finish.

Not that there were many survivors after a lap 53 accident eliminated eight cars on the spot and reduced several others to the class f walking wounded although thankfully no-one was seriously injured after a truly frightening pile-up. The only driver to require medical attention was Dr Jack Miller who was airlifted to a local hospital with suspected concussion after his Cahill Racing Dallara-Aurora barrel-rolled over the top of Al Unser Jr's Galles Racing G Force coming off Turn Four.

With speeds of over 215-mph commonplace at the 1.5-mile track and visibility under the sophisticated lighting system at the track not quite perfect it was perhaps unsurprising that when IRNLS debutant Cory Witherill slowed dramatically in Turn Four, the resulting chain reaction saw cars flying (literally) in all directions as car after car piled into the wreckage.

Most seriously damaged were the cars of Miller, Unser Jr, Witherill, Robbie Buhl, Davey Hamilton, Casey Mears, Jeret Schroeder and Robby McGehee who were eliminated on the spot as a spectacular ball of flame briefly enveloped the front stretch with both Miller and Unser Jr becoming airborne and a clearly shaken Unser Jr showing off the scuff marks on his severely battered helmet (yes that is correct) showing just how close the series came to a major disaster.

Also involved in the crash were Billy Boat, Jon Herb and Sarah Fisher with Fisher's Walker Racing Dallara receiving damage to her left front suspension as lumps of carbon fibre were thrown all across the track. All three were able to continue after taking in the necessary repairs although Herb's race would last just two laps after the field finally went back to green flag racing on lap 89 when his engine blue.

Both Boat and Fisher made it to the finish, albeit many laps in arrears with Fisher just missing out on a place in the top ten such was the level of decimation despite her 20 laps stay in the pits.

Despite the track looking decidedly empty throughout the second half f the race, the action was as close and entertaining as ever with Buddy Lazier and Eliseo Salazar going side by side for a full ten laps as they squabbled over third place, behind Ray and Sam Hornish Jr while Shigeaki Hattori and Didier Andre emulated their feat in their battle for fifth.



Related Pictures

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Sam Hornish Jr. (#4) and Greg Ray (#2).
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, and his team perform the traditional kissing of the bricks after racing to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, drinks the traditional bottle of milk while celebrating his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, crosses the finish line as he races to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Will Power (left), driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, finishes second. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Andy Frame/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Penske team mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power race side-by-wide during the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe during practice prior to Qualifying for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (Photo by: Leigh Spargur)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start on the outside of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pagenaud will be joined in the front row by by polestar Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest for the May 24 race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies second-fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start in the middle of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Power will be joined in the front row by pole sitter Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates after qualifying fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, winning the pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dixon will be joined in the front row by Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest, and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, winning the pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dixon will be joined in the front row by Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest, and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon leaves for his qualifying run for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Doug Mathews for IndyCar Media)

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