IRL: Phoenix Race Story

LATE GAMBLE PROVES VICTORIOUS FOR SHARP AT DURA-LUBE 200 PHOENIX, March 22, 1998 - Scott Sharp gambled on pit strategy late in the race and pulled away from points leader Tony Stewart in a three-lap shootout to the finish, winning the...

LATE GAMBLE PROVES VICTORIOUS FOR SHARP AT DURA-LUBE 200

PHOENIX, March 22, 1998 - Scott Sharp gambled on pit strategy late in the race and pulled away from points leader Tony Stewart in a three-lap shootout to the finish, winning the Dura-Lube 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Sharp, from E. Norwalk, Conn., beat defending series champion Stewart by 2.366 seconds, averaging 98.11 mph in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear in a 200-mile race slowed by 10 caution flags. Sharp earned $106,750 for his second career IRL victory. It was his first win since August 1996.

"This is unbelievable," Sharp said. "There have been more ups than downs for us lately, so this one feels really good."

Billy Boat finished third in the Conseco Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, and Stephan Gregoire was fourth in the Chastain Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Pole-sitter Jeff Ward was fifth in the Team Tabasco-ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear.

Sharp took the lead for the first time, and for good, on lap 171 when leader Stewart pitted for four tires and fuel during a caution period. Sharp's last pit stop came on lap 135, but team chief engineer David Cripps told Sharp to stay on the track. Second-place Kenny Brack also pitted with Stewart, giving Sharp the lead. Stewart led laps 67 through 170.

After the restart on lap 174, Sharp began to pull away from Stewart. Mike Groff and Brack crashed in the dogleg of the 1-mile oval on lap 186, creating the 10th and final caution period of the race. The race resumed with a three-lap dash to the finish on lap 198, with Sharp's lapped teammate, Mark Dismore, between Sharp and Stewart.

Stewart never passed Dismore for a chance to catch Sharp, who cruised to the victory by nearly half a straightaway.

"On the last restart, Mark wasn't going to run Tony off the road, but he wasn't going to do him any favors, either," Sharp said. "At the last restart, Mark was pulling away (from Stewart) as well. I still think I would've beat Tony even without Mark being there."

Sharp climbed from sixth to second in the Pep Boys IRL standings with 78 points. Stewart leads with 95. Ward is third with 73.

The next Pep Boys Indy Racing League event is the 82nd Indianapolis 500, May 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. …PIR98-15…

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Kenny Brack , A.J. Foyt