FORT WORTH, Texas, June 9, 2001 -- Scott Sharp found redemption on the high-banked corners of Texas Motor Speedway tonight, scoring his sixth career victory in Kelley Racing's Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara and delivering Oldsmobile's 42nd IRL...
FORT WORTH, Texas, June 9, 2001 -- Scott Sharp found redemption on the high-banked corners of Texas Motor Speedway tonight, scoring his sixth career victory in Kelley Racing's Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara and delivering Oldsmobile's 42nd IRL triumph. Sharp, the Indianapolis 500 polewinner, overcame the disappointment of a first-lap crash at Indy to win the Casino Magic 500 for the second straight year.
The race ended under caution when race-leader Greg Ray made contact with Robby McGehee with four laps to go. The accident eliminated Ray and contender Eddie Cheever Jr. Sharp avoided the melee and led a parade of 11 Oldsmobile-powered cars to the checkered flag. Sam Hornish Jr. padded his points lead with a runner-up finish, and Felipe Giaffone increased his margin in the rookie standings with a third-place finish.
The Casino Magic 500 had been as enthralling as last year's magical race at TMS until that fateful moment. An estimated 70,800 race fans watched breathlessly as the lead pack ran wheel-to-wheel for lap after lap. Ray, who had started 20th, worked his way to the front with surgical precision. The leaders ran three wide in the closing stages as they jockeyed for position over 215 mph.
"It was close racing tonight -- as close as I've ever seen," said Sharp. "I kept waiting for the boom. Greg and I never touched, but we came awfully close. He made a great move, and I thought it was over. Then I saw stuff flying, Greg turned sideways, but I was so close I was able to zip through it."
Sharp's victory broke a tie with Ray for the most IRL victories. "Switching to Ilmor-prepared Oldsmobiles and hiring key people has stepped up the level of our team," Sharp reported. "That was one of the things that made feel so bitterly disappointed after Indianapolis. It was a small bit of redemption tonight."
Oldsmobile engines powered 22 of the 24 starters and all 15 of the cars running at the finish. The top three finishers represented three independent Oldsmobile engine builders: Ilmor Engineering (Scott Sharp), Speedway Engine Development (Sam Hornish Jr.) and Comptech Machine (Felipe Giaffone).
"Ilmor has done an incredible job," Sharp noted. "They didn't have an engine on the dyno until December. We feel we have equal power now with the front runners. It's close out there with our engines, Menard's engines and the new Infiniti. It makes use feel like we've got a shot to win."
"We're anxious to get the new Chevrolet parts for next year and start working," added team owner Tom Kelley. "It's going to be close." Chevrolet announced this week that it will compete in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2002.
Hornish continues to reign in the championship points race. His two previous victories, combined with a fourth-place finish in Atlanta and a runner-up finish tonight, have given the Panther Racing driver a 35-point margin over Eliseo Salazar.
Patience paid off for the 21-year-old from Defiance, Ohio. "Racing here adds a little more pressure because Panther Racing has run well here in the past, so you're expected to win," Hornish conceded. "I try not to take any of that pressure. We had a good setup but just missed a little tonight. I was trying to stay in the lead draft but kept backing off in the corners because they were going three wide. It was pretty exciting to watch from where I was sitting."
Third-place finisher Felipe Giaffone completed Oldsmobile's podium sweep with Treadway-Hubbard Racing's IRL Aurora V8-powered G-Force.
The race was slowed to an average speed of 150.873 mph by six caution periods. Two drivers were injured in separate accidents. Davey Hamilton was transported by air to Parkland Hospital with fractures of his lower extremities. McGehee was transported to the same facility for further evaluation after sustaining a concussion and a fracture of the lower left leg.
"The only thing that puts a damper on this win is seeing guys I know in the hospital," said Sharp. "Some races end under yellow. It would have been more fulfilling to hold those guys off at the end, but we had a great race and led a lot of laps."
Final results from the Casino Magic 500 and the championship standings are unofficial pending protests involving the second and fifth-place finishers. The official finishing order will be determined on Monday.
The next stop on the IRL schedule is the Radisson Indy 200 at mile-high Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo., on Sunday, June 17.
<pre> Race Summary
Track: Texas Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval Winner: Scott Sharp, Kelley Racing Oldsmobile Dallara Margin of Victory: Under caution Average Speed: 150.873 mph Pole: Mark Dismore/Oldsmobile, 215.508 mph Top Five Finishers (unofficial) Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps 1. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 200 laps 2. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 200 3. Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 200 4. Buddy Lazier/Oldsmobile, 200 5. Donnie Beechler/Oldsmobile, 200
Manufacturer Results (unofficial) Laps Led: Oldsmobile 136, Infiniti 64 Starters: Oldsmobile 22, Infiniti 2 Running at Finish: Oldsmobile 15, Infiniti 0
Championship Standings (unofficial) After 5 of 13 events Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 192 (2) 2. Eliseo Salazar/Oldsmobile, 157 3. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 147 4. Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 135 5. Buddy Lazier/Oldsmobile, 117
Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Oldsmobile, 55 (5) 2. Nissan, 35 (0)
Next Race June 17, Radisson Indy 200, Fountain, Colo., 1.0-mile oval TV: ABC live, 4:00 p.m. EDT