SCOTT SHARP BACK ON TRACK AT INDY ABOARD TEQUILA PATRON PANTHER ENTRY INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Wednesday, May 6, 2009: Indianapolis 500 veteran Scott Sharp made his return to the Speedway yesterday, completing his "refresher course" around the fabled...
SCOTT SHARP BACK ON TRACK AT INDY ABOARD TEQUILA PATRON PANTHER ENTRY
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Wednesday, May 6, 2009: Indianapolis 500 veteran Scott Sharp made his return to the Speedway yesterday, completing his "refresher course" around the fabled 2.5 mile oval.
Sharp completed 26 laps with a best lap of 221.878mph (40.562 seconds) recorded on lap 20.
Sharp, Paul Tracy and Alex Lloyd completed their "refresher course" on track along with five rookies who underwent their Rookie Orientation Program for their Indy 500 debut.
Sharp is returning to the Indy 500 with a Tequila Patron-sponsored entry fielded by Panther Racing.
Panther finished second in last year's Indy 500 and is running Sharp's entry alongside their regular IndyCar Series driver, Dan Wheldon.
Sharp is tackling a busy month of May - combining his Indy 500 assault alongside his regular duties teamed with David Brabham at Patron Highcroft Racing in the American Le Mans Series aboard the Acura ARX-02a LMP1 car.
He is aiming to secure a place in the Indy 500 field on the opening weekend of qualifying as he will be at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City for the fourth round of the American Le Mans Series the following week.
Sharp enters this year's Indy 500 as one of the most experienced drivers in the field. Despite missing last year's 500, Sharp has 13 starts in the Memorial Day classic.
He scored the pole in 2001 and has a total of nine IndyCar wins. His best finish at the Indy 500 is sixth in 2007 - completing a run of three top 10 finishes in consecutive years.
The inaugural Indy Racing League co-champion has already been in the winner's circle in 2009 - taking victory with David Brabham for Patron Highcroft Racing at the Acura Sports Car Challenge American Le Mans Series event at St Petersburg.
Sharp will return to the track this afternoon in the #16 Tequila Patron entry when practice kicks off at the Speedway at 2:00pm
"On my first lap out it all came rushing back to me and I was able to slip straight into the groove into turn three on the out lap. It was just like I had never been away. It really felt like getting back on a bike - very familiar.
"It was great to put down a 221.878 mph lap and be second fastest on my return. Paul Tracy stole the fastest time but he came up and thanked me later because I gave him a huge tow at one stage out there.
"Working with the Panther guys has been great. The car is really well prepared with a lot of attention to detail. They had a solid plan for me yesterday with my refresher laps to get me up to speed.
"It was a very green track with a lot of young rookie drivers out there so I think we were smart in the way we went about things.
"We accomplished everything we wanted in regards to getting me comfortable in the car and getting a strong baseline to work off of for the rest of the week.
"Most of the first week will be about working on my comfort level and building on the speed. Getting a good qualifying set-up this week will be important before Saturday because the weather is looking a little ugly for the next few days with some showers and thunderstorms.
"We're probably going to concentrate harder on that earlier than we would normally because we don't know what the weather is going to do."