SHARP, BOESEL PLEASED DESPITE CRUEL TWISTS OF FATE AT ORLANDO LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 24, 1999 -- While Eddie Cheever Jr. celebrated victory Sunday in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200, drivers Scott Sharp and Raul Boesel...
SHARP, BOESEL PLEASED DESPITE CRUEL TWISTS OF FATE AT ORLANDO
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 24, 1999 -- While Eddie Cheever Jr. celebrated victory Sunday in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200, drivers Scott Sharp and Raul Boesel stood in the quiet pits at Walt Disney World Speedway and lamented how the pits did them in.
Sharp and Boesel finished fourth and fifth, respectively, but both saw late leads fade away on late stops.
Sharp was the third driver in a row to pit under green while leading the race. Cheever and Scott Goodyear resumed the race in good shape and raced on to a one-two finish.
Sharp's luck soured when it was his turn to make a last short stop for fuel. Rookie John Hollansworth Jr. crashed in Turn 4 bringing out the yellow on Lap 182, and Sharp couldn't get out of the pits quick enough to avoid being put a lap down.
Ironically, Boesel had assumed the lead at that point, and Sharp was stuck behind him, unable to circle the track and cling to the back of his fellow frontrunners.
Boesel was in front because his crew had gambled on the previous yellow and did not bring him in for a refueling stop until the final lap of caution. The TransWorld Racing-McCormack Motorsports team gambled that Boesel might stretch his fuel and pull off his first victory in Indy-style racing.
It didn't happen. His car, sponsored by the race sponsor TransWorld Diversified Services, began to sputter 10 laps from the finish, and he barely rolled it into his stall for a fuel replenishing on Lap 193. He wound up one lap down but in fifth place, three places better than his career-best finish in the Indy Racing League.
Sharp and Boesel still could smile at their fates. Neither lost that much in the standings after the race, and each proved to be a contender for the championship.
Pole sitter Sharp's Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear ran like a Kentucky Derby winner the first half of the race. But then the car suddenly got loose, and Sharp slipped out of the lead as he battled to keep his sliding machine off the wall.
"It got really bad in traffic," he said. "I was really hurting. People were beginning to use me as a pick."
Still, Sharp kept his Kelley Racing car in the hunt and appeared to have at least a third wrapped up when he pitted for the last time with 20 laps remaining. He tried to save his position, but couldn't quite do it.
"If I had been leaving the pits (when the yellow fell), I would have got out ahead of Raul," Sharp said. "The Pace Car and a tow truck jumped out in front of me."
Boesel's gamble began when defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Kenny Brack was carried into the Turn 4 wall after colliding with newcomer Gualter Salles. The race leaders headed in for fuel as soon as the pits were opened, but the McCormack crew kept Boesel on the pavement and in the lead until the green was about to wave to start Lap 120.
This allowed Boesel to become the race leader with less than 20 miles to go to the checkered flag. The green waved, and one lap later Boesel began to slip back.
"I tried to save as much fuel as I could," he said. "We almost did it.
"I think it was the right thing that (team owner) Dennis (McCormack) did. We just needed a longer yellow ... or another one. It coughed, and I did another lap. It coughed again in Turn 1, and I was worried I wasn't going to make it around. It came out of (Turn) three and really died." The computer relay from the fuel tank reported the car had three more gallons in the tank, McCormack said.
"But we ended up fifth, and I'm happy," McCormack said. "It was our best finish, and it was good to do it in our first race. Now I hope it can continue on for the rest of the season. Raul drove a good race." Boesel, like his boss, was pleased with the outcome.
"I think it's a good day," he said. "I'm not saying it's frustrating. It was a gamble, and we came close."