SCOTT SHARP SCORES SEASON-HIGH THIRD-PLACE RESULT TO LEAD RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING AT IOWA NEWTON, Iowa - Scott Sharp ( ...
SCOTT SHARP SCORES SEASON-HIGH THIRD-PLACE RESULT TO LEAD RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING AT IOWA
NEWTON, Iowa - Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) looked like a prizefighter at the end of today's Iowa Corn Indy 250, emerging from his Rahal Letterman Racing machine covered in sweat, with his black-and-green race suit soaked clear through. It was fitting, since Sharp battled like a title contender all day long in scoring a season-best third-place finish in the inaugural IndyCar Series event at Iowa Speedway.
Sharp emerged unscathed from a trio of 20-lap wars with Tony Kanaan, Vitor Meira and finally Ed Carpenter to secure the third spot, earning his best IndyCar finish since his Kentucky win in 2005. Not only did Sharp have to dodge the punches thrown by the aforementioned pursuers, but he also had to slip a few unexpected haymakers during the 250-lap event as spinning cars often proved more hazardous to Sharp than those that were headed in the proper direction.
"It was a pretty wild day," Sharp said. "There were so many cars that were literally sideways in front of me, I should have been collected two or three times. I really thought we were going to get caught up in that mess on the restart crash, but we were able to get through it and put up a good finish."
Meanwhile, Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) saw another promising run wrenched from his grasp in Iowa. Simmons had a strong car and was challenging alongside Sharp for a top-five spot when Kanaan's Lap 85 spin left Simmons nowhere to go in Turn Two. Kanaan spun directly in front of both RLR drivers, forcing Sharp to go low while Simmons had no recourse but to go high in a fruitless attempt to try and to avoid Kanaan. The resulting contact left Simmons to finish 17th.
"I am very disappointed because we had a great race car and I think we could have really made some gains, given how well we were running," Simmons said. "There was really nothing we could do, Tony spun and I never had a chance to do anything except get collected. I want to thank all of the Ethanol people that came out and supported us and while today's result was tough , I feel we are really gaining on the field and should be strong in the second half of the season."
Sharp made his final pit stop with 33 laps of the 0.875-mile oval to go and took fuel only, stretching the life of his Firestone Firehawks over the final two stints. The tires never wavered as Sharp chased Marco Andretti and Dario Franchitti for the top two spots. A debris caution 10 laps later put the two frontrunners right in Sharp's sights, but also brought Carpenter to Sharp's tail. He held Carpenter off for 20 laps, before the former sprint-car driver finally ran out of fuel with three laps to go, and although Sharp gave it his best shot, he settled for a third-place result.
"Great job today by the whole team," Sharp enthused. "The guys worked really hard this week, tried a lot of different things and it paid off with a strong weekend on the track. We still have a little ways to go but we are gaining on it and third-place points are nothing to sneeze at."
The result vaulted Sharp into seventh place in the point standings and gave him a 14-point advantage over Meira and Danica Patrick. Simmons remains in 11th after today's event, 18 points out of the top ten. The Indy Cars will pack up and head to Richmond for the ninth race of the 2007 season, for a Saturday-night event at the 0.75-mile Richmond oval.