Greg Ray recalls his epiphany as if it were yesterday. It was the night in 1991 when the best and worst sides of his nature agreed.
"I don't remember exactly what race I was watching," Ray said, "but I was being an armchair driver, complaining about this guy that had just made a big mistake, calling him an idiot and everything else.
"You have this devil and angel on your shoulders, and you expect one side to say something, then you expect the other side to argue.
"When my guy on one side said, why don't you go do it, you expect the other side to argue. But he goes, `Yeah, if you're so damned good, why don't you go do it?' "
That night when Ray sat bolt upright in bed, he was in a big home in a posh Dallas neighborhood, with three successful businesses, and a lovely wife sleeping at his side.
On the one hand, it is remarkable that he was clever enough to make a fortune by age 25. On the other, starting a racing career at that age is not the smartest thing in the world.
Unless you're Greg Ray.
This weekend when the Northern Lights Indy Racing League goes to Atlanta for the Atlanta 500 Classic, Ray will return as the defending race winner. He was the 1999 IRL champion and, in 1998, stunned the racing world by putting his own un-sponsored car in the front row for the Indianapolis 500. He topped that by winning the pole for the biggest race in America in 2000.
How, you ask, does someone go from square one to …