Sharp Snares Kentucky Victory Holding off a determined challenge from fellow Honda driver Vitor Meira in the final laps, Scott Sharp scored his first IndyCar Series victory since moving to Honda power and the Delphi Fernandez Racing team...
Sharp Snares Kentucky Victory
Holding off a determined challenge from fellow Honda driver Vitor Meira in the final laps, Scott Sharp scored his first IndyCar Series victory since moving to Honda power and the Delphi Fernandez Racing team Sunday at Kentucky Speedway. Although it was Sharp's first victory in two seasons, today's win was his ninth career triumph and the second consecutive win for Fernandez Racing in Kentucky.
A Honda victory at next weekend's Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway race will clinch the company's second consecutive IndyCar Manufacturers' Championship.
Starting seventh, Sharp ran at the rear of the lead pack for the first half of the race, but small changes made to the car during the early-race pit stops allowed him to charge towards the lead after Lap 120, taking the lead for the first time on Lap 134. Sharp then held off an attack by championship leader Dan Wheldon until the final pit stops, when Rahal Letterman Racing's Vitor Meira took up the challenge.
For the final 25 laps Meira, who had led for 11 laps at mid-race, repeatedly tried to pass the leader on the outside, but was unable to overtake as Sharp continued to hold the low [inside] line to the finish. Wheldon completed the podium sweep for Honda, and increased his championship lead to 95 points over his nearest challenger, Sam Hornish Jr.
Sharp's teammate, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing's Kosuke Matsuura had one of his strongest performances this year, running with the leaders throughout the day and jumping up as high as fifth on the final restart on Lap 175. A late-race shuffle around lapped traffic dropped Matsuura to eighth at the finish, but still it was his best result since running seventh at Texas Motor Speedway in June.
Buddy Rice finished 14th after coping with race-long handling problems, while rookie points leader and pole starter Danica Patrick was 16th after a long stop for gearbox repairs on Lap 77.
Scott Sharp (#8 Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 7th, finished 1st, first win since 2003, 9th career win, 8th Honda win of 2005: "I can't say enough about our engineering staff. We huddled between the warmup and the race and made a few changes to the car. Of course, any time you make changes and don't have a chance to test them on the track they are going to require some tweaking. So it took us a couple of pit stops to get the car right. But after that, the car just came alive. The guys gave me great pit stops all day and I think that was a big key. As hard as it is to pass at this place, I knew it was going to be important to hold or improve you position in the pits. There have been a lot of doubters [in me] the last couple of years, but Delphi has been the one constant. They believed in me and took me to a much better team. They gave me an opportunity to show that I could still do the job, and that's all any driver can ask."
Vitor Meira (#17 Menards Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 2nd, fifth top-five result of 2005, moves to 8th in points standings: "We started a little conservative, but we knew we had a good car and it would just be a question of keeping consistent. We were leading at mid-race, but when the next set [of tires] came on, I got a little bit too loose and lost the lead. After that, it was just a question of hanging on to my position. We just need to position ourselves a little bit better to get a win. You can't do any more than that, and if you keep doing that, sooner or later it will come."
Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 3rd, seventh top-three finish this year, increases his championship points lead to 90 over Sam Hornish, Jr.: "I was a good result for the team, but a real shame for my teammates who all had problems today. I felt very lonely out there during the last part of the race and it was certainly disappointing. Even though we came up a little bit short at the finish, everybody on the team did a great job today and from a championship [points] standpoint, it certainly doesn't look too bad for us right now."
Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Panasonic/Autobacs Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 14th, finished 8th: "For the first 100 laps the car was pretty good today, but after that we lost a bit of speed in the heat. But the team did an awesome job in the pits today and improved the car for the final laps. After the last yellow [flag], I got one of the best re-starts of my career and that moved me up to fifth. Unfortunately, there was a real traffic jam with some lapped traffic a little while later, and that cost me a couple of positions. Still, I think it was my best race this year, for sure."
Roger Yasukawa (#24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda) Started 16th, finished 17th (not running -- transmission): "We started out with a pretty good car today, and the team kept improving it with every pit stop. I was hoping for a top-10 finish and I thought that was possible for us until the transmission stuck in second gear after the last stop. But it was an encouraging day after all the hard work the team had to do, rebuilding the car after the Michigan crash. So we will build on this as we go to Pikes Peak next week."