It was Ray's ninth career pole and fifth of the season
Ray grabs pole for IRL final

FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct 14 (AFP) - American Greg Ray celebrated the final day of his Indy Racing League reign here Saturday by capturing pole position for Sunday's season-ending Excite 500 km.

Ray guided his Olds-powered Dallara around the 1.5-mile oval at 215.352 mph (404.563 k/hr) to edge front-row neighbor Scott Goodyear of Canada for the inside spot.

It was Ray's ninth career pole and fifth of the season, in which he stands a disappointing 11th after race-day failures. A win would boost his 2001 hopes.

"This would be a big boost of confidence and it will be a big reward for all their hard work," Ray said. "Some of our lack of performances, we've been our biggest enemy, and we're trying to correct all that."

American Buddy Lazier need only finish 14th or better in the 27-driver field to claim the IRL season title, qualified sixth. The 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion is the only two-time winner in the year's eight prior IRL racers.

The only rivals who can catch him for the overall crown are Goodyear and Eddie Cheever, the former Formula One racer and Indy 500 champion who qualified 10th.

Goodyear closed the gap on Lazier to 36 points after qualifying points were factored in, but knows his run might be too little and too late.

"We have to lead some laps to get some points and hopefully win the race. We'll have to see how it works out," Goodyear said. "I think we are in great shape. Our goal is to go out there, try to win and see how the points add up."

Sarah Fisher, who just turned 20, was the leading rookie qualifier in 13th place at the same track where she made her Indy-car debut a year ago. She has a chance to overtake Brazil's Airton Dare and become the series Rookie of the Year with a strong finish. Dare qualified 19th.

Internatinal IRL racers and their starting spots include Japanese rookie Shigeaki Hattori in 15th, Chile's Eliseo Salazar in 21st and France's Stephan Gregoire in 23rd.