IRL: Nashville: Kelley Racing race report

NASHVILLE, TN (July 19, 2003)---Tonight was a very interesting night for the Kelley Racing team on the 1.33-mile oval at Nashville Superspeedway. Drivers Al Unser Jr. and Scott Sharp started 13th and 14th respectively for the 200 lap Firestone...

NASHVILLE, TN (July 19, 2003)---Tonight was a very interesting night for the Kelley Racing team on the 1.33-mile oval at Nashville Superspeedway.

Drivers Al Unser Jr. and Scott Sharp started 13th and 14th respectively for the 200 lap Firestone Indy 200. After the green flag dropped, Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Delphi entry, was involved in contact with the Purex car of Robbie Buhl on lap 3. The contact caused damage to Sharp's front end plate so he had to pit on lap 6 to replace the front wing assembly. To keep Sharp from going a lap down, the team then brought him in on the next lap to take on four new tires and fuel. Sharp returned to the race and ran in the top ten for most of the night.

At one point, due to their strategy and pit stops, Sharp took the lead, but once the pit stops played out Sharp returned to his actual position.

Sharp was running in 12th place on lap 155 when the IndyCar official's black flagged Sharp for blocking and he had to serve a drive through penalty and the penalty put Sharp a lap down and the deficit was too much to recover from and get back on the lead lap. Despite the incidents Sharp brought the Delphi car home in 13th position. Unser Jr., driver of the No. 31 Corteco entry, had a better evening but unfortunately the race strategy didn't fall their way. Unser Jr. started the race in 13th position and quickly worked his way into the lead pack. The field was playing a variety of fuel strategies tonight and there were a number of options and unfortunately, the strategy that was chosen for Unser Jr. didn't play out for a win. Despite the final outcome, Unser Jr. ran in the lead for a good majority of the race and stayed in the top five for balance of the race. Although Unser Jr. finished in eighth place, his pit crew on two different stops put him out of his pit stop in the lead and Unser Jr. was very pleased with the performance of the entire Corteco team.

The Kelley Racing team will now return to their shop in Indianapolis to prepare for their next event at the Michigan International Speedway on July 27.

Al Unser Jr. -- #31 Corteco/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone

"Kelley Racing gave me a great car to drive today. All the guys on the Corteco team did a super job tonight. The Corteco/Bryant special was running very well all night. Out on the track it was very difficult to pass but for me, we did most of our passing in the pits. The Corteco crew passed everybody in the pits, put me in the lead and that's exactly where we wanted to be. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong strategy on the end of our race game and that's what cost us the win tonight. Mike Colliver, my engineer, gave me a super race car to drive. All of my guys gave me a super car tonight, super stops and I'm really proud of the Corteco team."

Start: 13th
Finish: 8th
Status: Running

Al Unser Jr. Fast Facts

* Today was Unser Jr.'s 317th career start and his 44th IRL start.

*Unser Jr. IndyCar Series points standings with 203 points.

*Nashville Record--In 2002 Unser Jr. did not compete at Nashville, Tony Renna substituted for Unser Jr. starting 14th and finishing 10th. In 2001 Unser Jr. started 19th and finished 14th after an accident.

*His victory on June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway was his third IndyCar Series victory and his 34th career victory.

*Unser Jr. has won two Indianapolis 500's (1992, 1994) and two open-wheel championships (1990, 1994).

Scott Sharp -- #8 Delphi/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone

"Tonight went pretty good. I'm pleased with the way we got the race car handling tonight. We started with a new set-up here yesterday morning, which we were questioning given the amount of time on the track that we got. Two forty-five minute practice sessions isn't a lot of time to get a perfect qualifying set-up. The Delphi guys did a great job, we stuck with the program, everyone thought long and hard last night on what would make this a better race car and we came in today and made some changes and it was certainly the best car I've had all weekend. The Delphi car should have finished in the top-five tonight. We did the best we could under the circumstances."

Start: 14th
Finish: 13th
Status: Running

Scott Sharp Fast Facts

*Today was Sharp's 75th career start and his sixth season with Kelley Racing.

*Nashville Record--In 2002, he started 11th and finished eighth, while in 2001 he started 13th and finished fifth.

*Sharp is currently in seventh place in the IndyCar Series with 176 points.

*Sharp's victory in April at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan was his eighth career victory.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp