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Ray's wild ride nets Indy pole

If you want to call Saturday's pole qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 the first showdown between America's rival open-wheel series, the Indy Racing series won.

Greg Ray, the defending series champion, knocked Juan Montoya, the 1999 CART champ and an Indy rookie, off the top qualifying spot for the May 28 race.

Montoya averaged 223.372 mph on his four-lap run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He never came close to the speedway's menacing concrete walls, which collected six cars during practice and qualifying.

"I tried to set up the car pretty similar to the way I drive the Champ Car so it's comfortable," Montoya said of his G Force-Oldsmobile Aurora. "The car is just very friendly."

Ray's Dallara-Aurora was far less friendly.

He aborted one attempt after nearly hitting the wall on his first lap. He then came back to beat Montoya with a nerve-racking, on-the-edge 223.471 run.

"As soon as I got it up to speed on the backstretch, I knew I had a bad vibration," Ray said. "There's 16 corners (during the four laps) and the car was sliding in all 16."

Twenty-three of the 33 starting positions were set. Once the field is filled today, the slowest qualifiers can be bumped out by faster cars until the end of the session.

Two-time Indy winner Al Unser Jr., returning to the speedway after being part of the CART boycott the past four years, qualified 18th.

Among others making it into the tentative field were former Indy winners Eddie Cheever Jr. (1998) and Buddy Lazier (1996), and 19-year-old rookie Sarah Fisher, one of two women entered.

Lyn St. James, the other woman, crashed hard during a late qualifying attempt but walked away without injury.

Others who crashed, also unhurt, were Andy Hillenburg, Jimmy Kite, Scott Harrington, Memo Gidley and Hideshi Matsuda.

GRAINGER.COM 200: Andy Houston took the pole position at Fountain, Colo., for today's NASCAR Truck event with a record lap of 133.442 mph, breaking the mark of 132.827 set last year by Mike Bliss.

SPRING SUPERNATIONALS: Larry Dixon led Top Fuel qualifying with one round left in the weather-plagued NHRA event at Englishtown, N.J. Officials canceled the second qualifying session in Top Fuel and Funny Car after teams experienced tire-wear problems due to extreme grip. Jim Epler (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) topped their classes.

EASYCARE 100: A piece of sheet metal flew into the stands at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., during the ARCA race, cutting a third-row spectator on the arm. Lyndon Amick won the race. Darrel Lanigan's car blew a right front tire, and a piece of the front quarter panel flew over the 21-foot catch fence. Three spectators were killed last May during an Indy Racing event at the track.

EUROPEAN GP: McLaren's David Coulthard avoided rain and won the pole for today's Formula One race. He lapped the 2.831-mile Nurburgring, Germany, course in 1 minute, 17.667 seconds (131.410 mph) and starts inside the Ferrari of points leader Michael Schumacher.

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