NAZARETH, Pa. -- Gil de Ferran and Team Penske gambled and lost this afternoon in the Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. De Ferran, who led the most laps of the race, ran out of gas with less than lap remaining in the Firestone Indy 225, ...
NAZARETH, Pa. -- Gil de Ferran and Team Penske gambled and lost this afternoon in the Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. De Ferran, who led the most laps of the race, ran out of gas with less than lap remaining in the Firestone Indy 225, handing the lead to a hard charging Scott Sharp. Sharp's win marks the sixth consecutive season in which he has won an IRL race.
A late race yellow necessitated by a George Mack spin and rain on the circuit set the stage for a final 19 lap showdown between de Ferran and Sharp, with Felipe Giaffone lurking close behind.
"Under the yellow, my team has calculated that Gil had about three gallons [of fuel] left," Sharp explained after his seventh IRL win. "When they told me that, I just looked at my fuel meter and waited for the fuel to go down. The last few laps it was tough to try to pass Gil. I would get a great run on him and catch him in the middle of turn two and the front would wash out and there was nothing I could do about it.
"Then I saw him start to lift going into the corners, which is what you do to save fuel. I knew he had to be close, and the next thing I know we crossed the finish line with the white flag and I figured that was it. I just kept the hammer down and all of the sudden right in the middle of turn two he just really stopped. I just jerked the car to the right and then I was more worried about Giaffone."
"We knew that we had enough fuel to make it the end, so we told him to keep pushing Gil as hard as possible," added Sharp's car owner, Tom Kelley.
For his part, de Ferran defended his team's fuel gamble: "I think it was the right call for any point of view. At one point the sky looked pretty dark so the race could have rained out at any moment. I think in this sort of situation you have to stretch it for as long as you can. And if the rain continued to go on and off intermittently, we would have had enough fuel to get to the end, so I think it made sense from two points of view. We were very, very close to getting it right.
"But I think the lasting thought, at least in my mind, is that this was a great run for us and we had a great car all day that was very, very fast. Overall, I'm obviously disappointed not to have won the race, but I'm happy with the finish."
Once Sharp passed de Ferran he had to fend off a spirited challenge from Felipe Giaffone, who almost crashed himself out the race on the penultimate lap.
"My left wheel was in the grass and I bottomed very hard and I saw that I had upset the car and I almost hit the wall on the outside," Giaffone related almost jokingly during the post-race press conference. "I think we took a chance, but fortunately we didn't both go to the wall."
After some more harrowing moments, Giaffone had to settle for second, while de Ferran coasted home in third.
Fuel strategy was important for Sharp from the outset of the race seeing how he qualified 11th and an omnipresent threat of rain threatened to cut short the 225 lap event several times throughout the event.
And it became even more important after Sharp was penalized for running into Team Penske crew member Rick Rinamen on the pit road during the race's first caution. "I felt really bad that I nailed Rick. The [pit] boxes are so tight that I knew how I had to get in and I had it all lined up and . . . all of the sudden I ran over him. I didn't feel it was right getting penalized for it, but rules are rules I guess."
The race was plagued by seven cautions for a total of 116 laps, including a violent collision between Jaques Lazier and Tomas Scheckter which resulted in both drivers being airlifted to Lehigh Valley Medical Center for further tests and evaluation. Additionally, series point's leader Sam Hornish tangled with Buddy Lazier, launching Lazier into the wall and bending Hornish's left front suspension. Although Hornish returned to the race several laps later, his day was over. A pair of single car wrecks claimed Jon Herb and George Mack as well, while minor spins by Laurent Redon and Ricky Treadway brought two more cautions.
Despite Hornish's on track misfortune, he leaves Nazareth with a five point lead over de Ferran in the championship.