Sharp battles understeer in Indy 500 finish 14th PLACE IN 14th INDY START FOR SHARP AND THE TEQUILA PATRON PANTHER SQUAD INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Saturday, May 24, 2009: Tequila Patron's Scott Sharp scored his eighth Indianapolis 500 race finish ...
Sharp battles understeer in Indy 500 finish
14th PLACE IN 14th INDY START FOR SHARP AND THE TEQUILA PATRON PANTHER SQUAD
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Saturday, May 24, 2009: Tequila Patron's Scott Sharp scored his eighth Indianapolis 500 race finish after completing today's 93rd running of the event in 14th place.
Sharp started the Panther Racing entry on the seventh row of the grid in 20th place and despite battling understeer in traffic for the majority of the race, he managed to improve six places by the time the checkered flag dropped.
He had moved up three spots by the first pit stop on lap 23, but was forced to pit two laps early at the end of his second stint when the car became very "loose".
When a yellow fell two laps later, Sharp initially fell off the lead-lap before getting a wave-by from the pace car.
After falling to 24th, the Connecticut-born, Jupiter, FL-resident made steady progress throughout the rest of the race with the Panther Racing crew making continued adjustments to the car at every stop.
Sharp also "got lucky" just before the half-way mark when he was about to pit with a tire issue, only for the yellow flag to wave for Tony Kanaan's crash - enabling Sharp to pit with the rest of the field.
After a late-race yellow for the crash between Vitor Meira and Raphael Matos, the Tequila Patron/Muscle Milk team elected to switch into fuel conservation mode and made it to the finish without a final stop.
It was a day of thirsty work for the 14-time Indianapolis 500 starter - the car's electrically-powered drink tube failed, forcing Sharp to take a drink bottle into the car at the pit stops when he wanted to hydrate.
Today's race was won by Helio Castroneves with Panther Racing scoring the runner-up spot with Dan Wheldon - the second consecutive year that Panther has finished second in the Indianapolis 500.
"It was a long day at the office. We had high expectations coming into today after running a very similar set-up to Dan and it seemed like early in the race neither of our cars were great, but we were pretty similar," said Sharp.
"We had problems with understeer when I was behind people, then it would get loose off the corners.
"We never really solved the issues. We got it better at times, especially in the last run when I was basically flat our for the last 15 laps.
"The bars and weight jackers were maxed out, but I still had that understeer behind people. We really could never get the front to work well enough in traffic.
"We were able to make it to the end without doing that final stop. We had to turn the fuel down a notch and (Ryan) Briscoe couldn't get us at the finish so that was fine.
"We were unlucky with the yellow coming out just after our first pit stop, but that turned around later when we were about to pit early later in the day and the yellow came out just at the right time for Tony Kanaan's crash.
"We're obviously a little disappointed with the end result, but this is still a great race to be involved with.
"It is very easy to get yourself pumped up about this one event even though you try to remain calm. When you don't get the end result you were chasing it is a little bit depressing.
"But looking back on the day I am really grateful for the guys at Panther. Many of these guys hadn't worked together before, but we had some great stops and beat people out of the pits which was great.
"We made it to the end, but it would have been nice to be fighting around 10 spots higher up the leaderboard. It certainly makes you want to come back here even stronger.
"This race has a lot of ups and downs and you normally hope you can keep them pretty level. Unfortunately for the Tequila Patron/Muscle Milk car today, they were a little more exaggerated on the downside."