IRL: Michigan: Kelley Racing race report

BROOKLYN, Mich (July 27, 2003) Today's Firestone Indy 400 lived up to the history of great races at Michigan International Speedway with the leaders dicing for position right until the finish line and Kelley Racing driver Scott Sharp making a...

BROOKLYN, Mich (July 27, 2003) Today's Firestone Indy 400 lived up to the history of great races at Michigan International Speedway with the leaders dicing for position right until the finish line and Kelley Racing driver Scott Sharp making a strong run for third place until the checkered flag fell. Both Kelley Racing drivers drove excellent races today on the 2-mile historic oval. Driver of the No. 31 entry, Al Unser Jr., ran with the lead pack for most of the 200-lap event and led four laps. But on the final caution period, the decision was made for Unser Jr. not to pit and in order to make their fuel strategy work he was going to have run lean on fuel and that kept him from staying with the leaders and caused him to drop back in position, eventually finishing ninth. It was a big disappointment for Unser Jr. who had run an excellent race and had a strong Corteco car all weekend. For his teammate Scott Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Delphi entry, it looked like today was going to be one he would like to forget. Sharp was running mid-pack when on a restart at lap 75 he suffered a cut tire and had to put for a replacement tire under the green flag. That extra stop put Sharp a lap down. Despite the disappointment, Sharp stayed with it and team owner Tom Kelley and his team continued to strategize on how to get Sharp back on the lead lap and in contention. Luck smiled on them late in the race when two caution periods fell very close together and Sharp was not only able to get back his lap back but he also got in with the lead pack. From that point on, Sharp was dicing for third position right until the checkered flag fell. Sharp was unable to get past Tomas Scheckter and settled for a fourth place finish. The Kelley Racing team will now return to Indianapolis and prepare for their next event, which is August 10 in St. Louis.

Al Unser Jr. -- #31 Corteco/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone

"I just don't know what to say. It just seems like we go the wrong way on our strategy and that hurts. After we stayed out on the last stop, we had to run the car lean to make it on fuel and we just couldn't stay with the leaders. There's a lot of drafting at Michigan but you have to be able to run hard to stay in the lead pack and there at the end, we just couldn't do it. The Corteco team did a great job once again the pits and I just can't say enough about what a great car they gave me today and this whole weekend. I'm just disappointed about how the day ended."

Al Unser Jr. Fast Facts

* Today was Unser Jr.'s 318th career start and his 45th IRL start.

* Michigan Record--In 2002 Unser Jr. did not compete at Michigan, Tony Renna substituted for Unser Jr. starting 10th and finishing fourth. Unser Jr. has one previous win at Michigan, in 1989 while driving in the Champ Car Series.

* His victory on June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway was his third IndyCar Series victory and his 34th career victory.

* Unser Jr. has won two Indianapolis 500's (1992, 1994) and two open-wheel championships (1990, 1994).

Scott Sharp -- #8 Delphi/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone

"Today was a big day for the Delphi team. We've been in this rut since Indianapolis and we really needed to break out of it and we finally did today. We had a really strong car. We started out conserving fuel early and unfortunately cut a tire right after one of the restarts and went a lap down and we just weren't getting any breaks to get our lap back. Finally, there were two yellows in a row and it not only let us get our lap back but we got on strategy with the leaders and took our fuel and tires and just went. We had finally caught a break and we just went for it. It was a great race today."

Scott Sharp Fast Facts

* Today was Sharp's 76th career start and his sixth season with Kelley Racing.

* Michigan Record--In 2002, he started 16th and finished ninth

* Sharp's victory in April at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan was his eighth career victory.

-www.kelleyracing.com-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Al Unser