SHARP SCORES FIRST WIN OF SEASON AT ATLANTA HAMPTON, Ga., July 17, 1999 - Scott Sharp passed Robby Unser with 31 laps remaining and went on to win the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom Saturday night at Atlanta Motor...
SHARP SCORES FIRST WIN OF SEASON AT ATLANTA
HAMPTON, Ga., July 17, 1999 - Scott Sharp passed Robby Unser with 31 laps remaining and went on to win the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his first victory of the 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season. Sharp, from Carmel, Ind., took the lead for good on Lap 178 of the 208-lap race in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Sharp held off Unser in the closing laps on the 1.5-mile quad-oval, winning under caution when Jaques Lazier spun on the backstretch with two laps to go. "I just can't say enough about the Delphi team," Sharp said. "I just love coming to Atlanta. This is my favorite of the 1.5-mile tracks we go to. I prayed every lap out there tonight. Hat's-off effort." Unser ended up second in the PetroMoly-Team Pelfrey Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, tying his career best. Defending league and event champion Kenny Brack was third in the A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Sharp earned $120,500 and averaged 141.546 mph in a race slowed by six caution periods. Sharp climbed from a tie for fifth to second in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings in a points-shuffling race, as the top three entering this event - Scott Goodyear, Jeff Ward and Greg Ray - each encountered problems. After starting sixth, Sharp showed his strength by taking the lead for the first time on Lap 151. Unser and Brack traded the lead from laps 162-177 before Sharp took control of the race. In all, there were 16 lead changes among 10 drivers. Eliseo Salazar finished fourth in the Nienhouse Motorsports Racing Special G Force/Aurora/Firestone for his best finish of the season. Buzz Calkins recorded a season best fifth-place finish after starting 20th in the Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Goodyear held the points lead despite finishing 16th after suffering a handful of problems, mainly electrical, with his Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. He leads Sharp, 180-159, entering the Mid-Atlantic 200 on Aug. 1 at Dover Downs International Speedway in Dover, Del. Ward dropped to third in the standings with 153 points after finishing 26th in the 27-car field in the Yahoo!-MerchantOnline.com Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. He was plagued by handling problems before being eliminated in a four-car accident on Lap 88. Steve Knapp is in serious condition at Atlanta Medical Center after suffering a C-7 neck fracture in that accident. Ray fell from third to sixth in the standings after dropping out in 23rd after 108 laps due to electrical problems in the Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. *** QUOTEBOOK:
SCOTT SHARP (Winner): "I've got some awesome feelings. It's hard to express them all. We made some key changes to key people. We basically had to start over in a lot of ways. We started this race with a brand-new setup, and that's hard to do. It's hard to develop a new setup on a race weekend. We kept digging and digging, and we finally got it. The Delphi team made some great pit stops tonight. We made a great call on the second-to-last pit stop. It was a good strategy call. I have to give credit to (team owner) Tom (Kelley) and the Delphi team. They gave me a chance to win tonight. It was a lot of expectation on my behalf. We'd been a little short of that. I said to all of the guys, 'We need a good finish in Atlanta and a good finish in Dover.' I don't think there's any more closer or competitive racing now (than in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League). We've made a few changes personnel-wise over the last month. The guys have been wonderful. They've worked so hard. It was so important for us tonight to get a win. We're second in the driver points, and I know we have a chance to win the entire championship."
ROBBY UNSER (Second): "I really have to hand it to the team. I came in once with a dead car, and they got me restarted. Then I let myself get a lap down, and the guys pulled it out in the pits and made it happen."
KENNY BRACK (Third): "We had a pretty good day, all in all. Unfortunately, a header broke on Lap 175 and we lost power. It sounded like an old John Deere. I'm happy I finished third, it was a good result."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (Pep Boys Million points leader, finished 16th): "We were just fine in the beginning - making some changes with each pit stop. I think we had a great car tonight, but unfortunately I guess it wasn't meant to be. I could tell in the beginning that the motor was actually losing voltage because it was acting different." (About the run for the points championship): "We probably gained some points, but we could have made a big gain, which is exactly what we needed after having a bad race at Pikes Peak." (About running at Atlanta): "It's a great time. The sun was a little difficult in the beginning. After the race, they told me who won, and I was happy for him."
BILLY BOAT (PPG pole winner, finished 10th): "We had a problem in the pits on the first pit stop. It just got crowded in the pits. I went to turn in, and there was somebody standing in my way. We had to get a quicklift and pull the car around, and we went from fourth to last. But it's good to finish one for Harrah's. We would have liked to finish higher. We'll go to Dover and give it our best shot." *** TOP 10 IN PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Scott Goodyear 180 2. Scott Sharp 159 3. Jeff Ward 153 4. Eddie Cheever Jr. 149 5. Kenny Brack 144 6. Greg Ray 140 7. Robby Unser 139 8. Davey Hamilton 133 9. Billy Boat 125 10. Mark Dismore 120 *** RACE FACTS:
.This is Scott Sharp's fourth career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory, tying him with Kenny Brack and Arie Luyendyk for the most victories by a driver in league history. .Scott Sharp is the fifth different winner in six Indy Racing events this season. .Scott Sharp has won at least one event in each of the last three seasons. .This is the third career victory for Kelley Racing, which debuted in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League at the start of the 1998 season. .Robby Unser finished second, his fourth consecutive top-10 finish this season. .Buzz Calkins was running at the finish for the eighth consecutive event, tying Davey Hamilton's Pep Boys Indy Racing League record. .There were 10 leaders in tonight's race, a season high. .Talk about a comeback: Eliseo Salazar suffered season-ending injuries July 18, 1998 during practice at the Pep Boys 400K at Dover, Del. Salazar finished fourth tonight in the Nienhouse Motorsports Special.