Sharp Edges Meira In Irl IndyCar Series Kentucky Classic
Indy Racing League IndyCar Series veteran Scott Sharp breathed new life into his 10-year career with a 0.0779 of a second victory over Vitor Meira in "The AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries" today at Kentucky Speedway.
Sharp scored the second Delphi Fernandez Racing win at Kentucky Speedway in as many starts after leading 60 of 200 race laps and fighting off persistent strong stretch runs by series leader and third-place finisher Dan Wheldon, who led a race-high 104 laps, and Meira, who led 11 circuits just past the midway point of the race.
"It's the biggest race I've ever won in the IRL," Sharp said. "I say that because we were in contention all day. We raced our way to the lead and we went on and won the race. From a driver's perspective that's how you dream about winning races. You will take them any way you can get them. You'll back the thing up across the line if that's the case. Certainly, if you can beat a dominant type car and win the race, that's how you dream about doing it." Sharp ran among the top 10 during the opening 100 laps and credits his crew for making a race-changing adjustment during the third of four caution periods that began on Lap 114 for debris.
"I can't say enough about my engineering staff. We huddled together between warm-up and the race and made lots of changes," Sharp said. "Once you change the car and you don't have a chance to practice it again you're probably going to have to tweak it a bit. It took us a couple pit stops to get the car right and it just came alive."
He took his first lead from Wheldon on Lap 134 and the two traded it four times over the next 34 laps before Sharp took control for a third and final time on Lap 169.
"We went to the front and Dan was pretty quick, so I wasn't sure if he was checking me out to see how much speed I had," Sharp said. "He kept trying to come and get me on the outside and couldn't really get it done."
Caution flew again on Lap 169 when the No. 27 ArcaEx car of Dario Franchitti encountered suspension trouble. Sharp dove to the pits for a final time and came out with the lead following a quick work by his No. 8 Delphi crew.
"The yellow popped out (on Lap 169), we were in the lead and the guys gave me a great pit stop. I think that was a big key because it was hard to pass at times so you had to maintain or increase your position in the pits."
Wheldon restarted the race third on Lap 175 giving Meira a chance to challenge for the win. Meira and his No. 17 Rahal Letterman Menards Johns Manville machine cut Sharp's lead to 0.0693 of a second with three laps remaining. Meira made a last ditch effort for the win on the final lap when he dove his car below the interior white line coming off of Turn 4, but was forced to settle for his fourth career second-place finish in the series.
"There was no way I could get him on the outside," he said. "I would have had to catch him on the restarts, which I didn't, or pass him on the inside on the last lap. I was waiting for that to happen, trying sixth gear, but couldn't do it."
Meira, who was second in the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, posted his best finish through four Kentucky Speedway starts and delivered his fifth top-five and seventh top-10 finish of the season.
"The Menards Johns Manville car kicked butt again, that's what it's all about," he said. "This team wants to win and deserves to win. We give ourselves chances to win and as long as we're doing that we're fine."
Wheldon maintains the series lead with his ninth top-five and 11th top-10 finish of the season through 12 races. He increases his lead by 12 points over second-place championship contender Sam Hornish, Jr., and will enter the series August 21 race at Pikes Peak International Raceway with a 90-point cushion over the 2003 Kentucky Speedway race winner.
"Overall, it was a good result. I think everyone did the job that they could do and we came up a little short," Wheldon said. "From the championship perspective, it doesn't look that bad."
Sharp earned his first win since 2003 and has now registered a win in eight of his past nine IRL IndyCar Series seasons. He has earned a total of five top-five and nine top-10 finishes this season.
The classic contest drew a series track record crowd of 62,595 and the margin of victory represented the second closest series race in speedway history. The series also set the track record for lead changes as the lead changed 16 times among Andretti Green driver Tony Kanaan, Meira, Sharp and Wheldon.
The speedway will conclude it's sixth season of operations on September 10 with "The Charlie Daniels Band Fall Classic" featuring the return of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series and USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series.
Visit our schedule and tickets pages for more information.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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