INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 17, 2004 -- In the "which team are they with now?" world of professional sports, Scott Sharp is an anomaly. The 36-year-old Jupiter, Fla., resident has enjoyed ownership stability the past seven IRL IndyCarÂ®...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 17, 2004 -- In the "which team are they with now?" world of professional sports, Scott Sharp is an anomaly.
The 36-year-old Jupiter, Fla., resident has enjoyed ownership stability the past seven IRL IndyCar® Series seasons with Kelley Racing and a committed sponsor. He's also earned it by posting impressive numbers.
83 -- IndyCar Series starts, tied with Buddy Lazier for the most in series history. He'll set the record if he glides under the green flag for the March 21 Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
75 -- Record consecutive IndyCar Series starts.
14,380 -- Record IndyCar Series laps completed. He passed Lazier (14,373) by running all 200 laps in a ninth-place finish in the season-opening Toyota Indy 300.
7 -- Consecutive seasons with at least one race victory (six with Kelley Racing and the first with A.J. Foyt Enterprises). He has eight victories overall. In 2003, he moved from the seventh starting position to win the inaugural Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.
The list goes on, but will become obsolete on March 21 when Sharp -- who finished 11th in the IRL's inaugural event at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1996 -- adds to the totals in the No. 8 Delphi Kelley Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.
"It is certainly an honor to be making my 84th start in the Indy Racing League," Sharp said. "It shows the dedication and commitment that I've had from my main sponsor, Delphi, over the years as well as from Kelley Racing. I do have mixed emotions on reaching this milestone because I like to think that I measure my racing career in races won, not races started.
"But, on the other hand, to make 84 starts in a series as competitive as the IRL IndyCar Series is no small task, especially from the physical standpoint. Now that I am one of the drivers who have "been around for a while," I am more aware than ever that to stay at the top of my game and continue in this competitive environment that I have to give 120 percent to my physical training to keep the stamina required for racing. Hopefully, I will be around to make another 84 starts in the IRL, God willing."
Sharp totaled seven top-10 and three top-five finishes last year, and he completed 3,175 of a possible 3,251 laps -- more than any other driver. At the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway, he has one victory (1998) and a runner-up finish (1996). Last year, he started 11th and finished seventh.
"Phoenix reminds me of IndyCar tradition, as the track is one of the longest running on our schedule (since 1996)," Sharp said. "Perennially, it is one of our early-season, short-track, action-packed races."
After the 2003 IndyCar Series race, officials at Phoenix International Raceway extended the Turn 2 wall outward, making the dogleg on the backstretch less pronounced. The banking in Turn 2 was increased slightly. In addition, the SAFER Barrier was added to the approximately 1,400 feet between Turns 1 and 2 and Turns 3 and 4 and a tunnel was created in Turn 4.
"I'm especially excited this year with some of the changes PIR has made," Sharp said. "With the widening of Turn 2, I'm expecting the racing to be even tighter. We'll go side-by-side regularly through Turns 1 and 2 and that will be very hair-raising for the fans."
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Copper World Indy 200 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 21 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series Phoenix 100 will take place at 2:45 p.m. on March 20. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 on a tape-delayed basis on March 25.