RLR'S SCOTT SHARP MOVES INTO SEVENTH PLACE IN INDYCAR STANDINGS WITH SIXTH-PLACE RUN IN KENTUCKY SPARTA, Ky. - Scott Sharp ( ...
RLR'S SCOTT SHARP MOVES INTO SEVENTH PLACE IN INDYCAR STANDINGS WITH SIXTH-PLACE RUN IN KENTUCKY
SPARTA, Ky. - Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) continued his surge toward the top five in the IndyCar Series points standings as he led the Rahal Letterman Racing team with a near-flawless sixth-place run today at Kentucky Speedway. Sharp battled through a minor fueling problem on his second stop and charged from the back of the field to snare the sixth spot, moving him into seventh place in the standings with three races left in the 2007 season. Sharp passed Danica Patrick for seventh today and moved to within just 11 points of Helio Castroneves for sixth. Early accidents for Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr. brought Sharp even closer to them as well, as he is now just 32 points behind Hornish for fifth.
"That was one of the best cars I have had on a mile-and-a-half track in a long time," Sharp said. "We could put the car anywhere we wanted and it felt good. We made a lot of gains today. That's the most competitive we've been this year and I am very happy. The car was balanced, and felt good in traffic and enabled us to try a few things. We got good points and that's what counts."
But for each thing that went right for the veteran Sharp, rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) suffered an opposite fate. Settling in through the first stint, things went south soon after as an electrical problem killed Hunter-Reay's radio communications. The trouble hearing instructions regarding pit stops caused problems in getting to pit lane, and the troublesome radio would end up requiring three stops to fix. The rookie soldiered on, getting his laps in during his first 1.5-mile oval race in three years, gaining a spot at the end due to Patrick's crash to finish 15th. The result moved him to within a dozen points of Milka Duno for Bombardier Learjet Rookie-of-the-Year honors with three races to go.
"My second oval with the Ethanol car and the second race where we had problems that were out of our control," Hunter-Reay relayed. "We had a top-10 car and it's a shame that we had trouble because we were definitely faster than the cars that finished at the back of the top ten. We had an electrical problem that killed the radio, which led to more pit stops than we should have had. The guys did a good job, it was a top-10 day for us, we just don't have the result to show for it."
Sharp was strong from the drop of the green flag on a sultry Saturday evening in Kentucky. He ran sixth after the first set of pit stops, then expertly ran down Castroneves and slipped past for fifth on Lap 66. The second stint went equally well with Sharp running fifth when the team rolled the dice on a short fill to gain a little track position on a day where the top-seven cars had trouble making passes. A slight hiccup during the stop dropped Sharp a lap down, but he made it up courtesy of a caution with 75 laps to go. The caution got him back on the lead lap, but put him on the tail end of the line at the restart.
"We had a real good car today and we wanted to try something that would have really helped us contend for the win," said Sharp's lead engineer Ray Leto. "But we had a little problem and made it tougher for Scott, but he did a great job picking cars off and getting back to the front. All in all, a good day for us and one we can build on."
Sharp got to work at the drop of the green flag, setting cars up off of Turn Four and then making the passes coming out of Turn Two, where his car was working very well. He worked his way up to seventh prior to his last pit stop, then gained a spot when points leader Dario Franchitti had to get a new nose cone after an altercation with his teammate Patrick while entering the pits. Things got worse for Patrick as she spun leaving the pits, then spun and hit the wall on the backstretch after being righted after the first spin. The long cleanup meant that Sharp would have just 10 laps to make up any ground, and while he chased Tomas Scheckter all the way to the checkered flag, he ended up settling for sixth, which is his ninth top-10 finish of the season. It is the 10th consecutive race that Sharp has finished, the longest current streak in the series.