IRL: Milwaukee: Rahal Letterman Racing race report



MILWAUKEE-- Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) showed why he has been one of the most successful drivers in IndyCar Series history today at the Milwaukee Mile, coming from as far back as 14th early on to finish sixth in today's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225.

Sharp's stirring charge in the race's latter stages sparked Rahal Letterman Racing's second double top-10 of the season as Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) rolled home in the 10th spot.

"Today was one of those never-give-up days," Sharp said. "We started and were fighting tire pressures early, a couple guys got underneath me and I got off my rhythm and we were weren't keeping pace and I thought it was going to be a long day. We got some timely yellows and the guys kept working on the car. Jeff Britton and the guys kept making it better and when we put the last set of tires on, it was a different race car. We had a lot more grip with the tire pressure changes we made and I could run right with the quick guys."

Having started 18th after failing to post a qualifying time, Simmons was the star of the show early on, passing four cars in the first two laps of the day and using great pit work by his crew to move into 10th after just 72 laps of the Milwaukee Mile oval. Meanwhile Sharp struggled, dropping from 11th on the grid to 14th after 20 laps and finding himself in danger of falling a lap down to the leaders. A timely caution allowed Sharp to dodge one bullet as the leaders tracked him down, but the second dodge was all on Sharp and the RLR team. Helio Castroneves filled Sharp's mirrors on Lap 72, looking to drop the Floridian down a lap, but Sharp got up on the wheel and fought off the Brazilian, first simply keeping him at bay before eventually pulling away and building a gap from the baying pack. A Lap 88 caution made the battle pay off, and the ensuing caution period started Sharp's march to the front.

"That was pretty tough. He came rolling up on me and I was pretty sure we were going a lap down," Sharp told. "Ray Leto did a great job of pushing me to drive it hard and keep him behind me and I was trying to get my line right. Pretty soon Helio started pushing out of Turn Two and I started pulling away from him and it started from there."

By the halfway point of the race, Simmons and Sharp had both moved into the top eight, but were embroiled in a four-way skirmish with Ed Carpenter and Vitor Meira that saw Sharp got momentarily shuffled back to 11th. A caution for Buddy Rice's Turn Two crash allowed the Patron crew to roll the dice on Lap 159, deciding that Sharp's car would be fine on twelve-lap-old tires, and only took ethanol while the rest of the field took four tires and fuel. The move boosted Sharp to eighth, a spot from where he would chase Meira all the way to the checkered flag. Late-race accidents involving race leader Castroneves and then Marco Andretti promoted Sharp to sixth at the end of the day while Simmons ended up 10th after his car failed to respond to a final pit stop.

"The car was really good early on, the guys gave me great pit stops all day but at the end we just couldn't get anywhere," Simmons lamented. "We didn't make any changes and I don't know what the difference was after our last stop, but it was a totally different car and we couldn't make up any ground."

The finish solidified Sharp's hold on the eighth spot in the points, and brought him to within just five points of seventh place after six events. It also matches his season-high result, which he has now reached in three of the six 2007 starts. The finish is third top-10 in the last four races for Simmons, and he is just 21 points out of a berth in the top-10.

-credit: rlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Buddy Rice , A.J. Foyt , Vitor Meira