IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-15

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 15, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Sharp hopes to build on momentum 1. Sharp hopes to build on momentum: The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 15, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Sharp hopes to build on momentum

1. Sharp hopes to build on momentum: The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL IndyCar® Series.

Scott Sharp hopes a change of scenery can return him to the ranks of IRL IndyCar® Series championship contender.

Sharp, who spent seven seasons with Kelley Racing and saw his seven-year streak of winning at least one race come to an end in 2004, moves with longtime sponsor Delphi to Fernandez Racing for 2005. He said he hopes to build on the success his new team had with team co-owner Adrian Fernandez in 2004.

"I am expecting to be much more competitive than the last couple of seasons," said Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion. "I want to shoot to be in the top five or six cars in every race and, if we can do that often enough, the race wins are going to come and we will be in a fight for the championship."

Sharp replaces Fernandez as driver of Fernandez Racing's second-year IndyCar Series effort, which will be known as Delphi Fernandez Racing in 2005. The team joined the series one race into the 2004 season and ended the year with three wins in the final four races. Fernandez finished fifth in the point standings.

It was that success that led Sharp to report to preseason testing in the best shape of his racing career. The dividends paid off as Sharp quickly adapted to his new Honda-powered Panoz chassis and posted quick times in the oval portion of the testing.

"I kind of ramped everything up," said Sharp of his offseason conditioning process. "Part of it is the enthusiasm I have -- I haven't even slept well for three months. I'm just so jacked up about being with these guys and having the chance to compete again. I think we're going to go to each track and be contenders. I think we're going to get better and better as the year goes on."

And that includes doing everything he can to prepare for the IRL's first season of road racing. Sharp, who has competed in at least one race in the previous nine IndyCar Series seasons, was one of eight IndyCar Series drivers who competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and recently visited the ESPN Russell Racing School at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., to hone his road racing skills.

Capsule look at Delphi Fernandez Racing
Car number: 8
Main sponsor: Delphi
Chassis/engine: Panoz/Honda
Driver: Scott Sharp, 27, of Norwalk, Conn.
Race engineers: John Ward and Chris Finch
Chief mechanic: Tony Leith
Team manager: Mike Sales

Co-owner viewpoint
Adrian Fernandez: "The team is at a strong level, and it is ready to deliver like we were doing last year. We don't have to train Scott; he has all the experience. He just has to blend in to the team and learn the way we work. We were off to a good start in the first test that we did with him last week in Homestead, and Kosuke (Matsuura) is also ready to step up and show what he learned last year.

"We have made some good changes within the team, and I think the team is very integrated. We are ready to start the season as we finished last year. Obviously, it takes some time to get everyone to "gel" completely, but I feel we have a good, strong team and that will minimize the transition. We have two very good drivers that are ready to fight for the championship."

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Adrian Fernandez