COMING HOME: SCOTT SHARP RETURNS TO LIME ROCK Scott Sharp will return to his home state - and home track - for the first time in 15 years this summer at the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. His move this season from the...
COMING HOME: SCOTT SHARP RETURNS TO LIME ROCK
Scott Sharp will return to his home state - and home track - for the first time in 15 years this summer at the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. His move this season from the Indy Racing League to the American Le Mans Series brings his career full-circle, as he began his professional driving career racing sports cars and is returning to the arena once again.
The son of six-time SCCA national champion Bob Sharp, Scott got an early taste for the thrill and excitement of sports-car racing at Lime Rock. Sharp made his mark in the sports-car arena by winning the SCCA GT2, GT1 (twice) and two Trans-Am Championships in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1996, the first year of the Indy Racing League, he was the IndyCar co-champion. His impressive career in the IRL included nine IndyCar event wins and 35 top-five finishes. He holds the league record of 138 consecutive IndyCar starts. The 2008 season marks Scott's debut in the American Le Mans Series for Patrón Highcroft Racing, a Danbury, CT-based team that is fielding an Acura ARX-01b in LMP2.
Sharp already has tasted victory as he and David Brabham won the LMP2 class at the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach in April, only Sharp's third start with the team.
"Lime Rock is ingrained as part of my childhood landscape," said Sharp. "My earliest memories are of sitting on the hill above the track with my sister and mother, watching my dad race. It was my 'home away from home,' for sure, and helped grow my love of the sport. Last time I competed at this track was in the Trans-Am series in 1993. I can't believe it's been 15 years!"
Sharp attended the Skip Barber Driving School at Lime Rock when he was 17. He started practicing in his first race car in the fall of 1985, a Datsun 280z, which was the car he started to race professionally the next year in the SCCA. Sharp won the race at Lime Rock that year and went on to win the national championship.
Although Sharp never competed against his father, he remembered, "coming here all the time for his races. The crew would sneak me through the pits when my dad won so I could take the victory lap with him and stand up on the podium when I was no higher than his knee."
Sharp also spent time there with another racing legend. "I spent a lot of time with my dad and Paul Newman at Lime Rock when they were racing together. I remember testing with Paul in the 280z and a stock car that we'd taken out of my dad's dealership showroom."
Talking about his move from IndyCar back to sports-car racing, Sharp was unabashedly enthusiastic about his decision. "The transition has been fantastic. Having raced ovals for the past 15 years, I was really ready to shake things up. I really hadn't spent much time on road courses or street circuits in a long time, so I had to re-familiarize myself with that, plus, get used to a new car. I have to say, I was literally blown away the first time I got in the Acura. I was overwhelmed with the car's technical sophistication. There was no period of adaptation. Let me give you an example of the power of the Acura ARX-01b. Due to LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype class) rules and the way our air flow is restricted to keep horsepower down, the LMP2 car has 200 fewer horsepower and weighs 200 pounds more than an Indy Car, yet runs close to the same lap times as the Indy Cars. This car boasts enormous advantages from aerodynamic, chassis, downforce and braking perspectives.
"It's ironic how everything has come full-circle," Sharp mused, about joining the only American Le Mans Series prototype team headquartered in Connecticut. "Growing up, my dad's shop was on South Street in Danbury, which is a stone's throw from the Patrón Highcroft shop. I spent many days at my dad's shop after school, trying to help out. It wasn't until I came to the Patrón Highcroft shop for the first time that I realized that there are a couple of guys who worked for my dad who both work in this team's gearbox department. I raced against another team member in the Sports 2000 Series in the 1980s. I remembered them all and they remembered me from when I was just a kid. Being from Connecticut and having so many local guys on the team, I felt comfortable immediately."
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix is race is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race from noon to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 13. XM Satellite Radio will air the event live on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Additional live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.