Sharp fourth in IRL season finale at Texas Motor Speedway; Renna seventh, Unser jr. 20th after engine failure running second. Justin, TX -- September 15, 2002 -- Scott Sharp battled with the leaders until the end bringing the ...
Sharp fourth in IRL season finale at Texas Motor Speedway; Renna seventh, Unser jr. 20th after engine failure running second.
Justin, TX -- September 15, 2002 -- Scott Sharp battled with the leaders until the end bringing the #8 Delphi home in fourth place, only 0.2645 of a second behind the leader, in the IRL season ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Sam Hornish, Jr. won both the race and the 2002 IRL Championship.
Tony Renna grabbed his fourth top-ten finish in only seven 2002 IRL start taking the #78 Kruse Special/HomeMed car to the checkered flag in ninth. Outside pole sitter Al Unser, Jr. looked to be a contender for the win all day running in the top three virtually the entire race, the engine in the #7 Corteco/Bryant failed with only 29 laps remaining, on lap 171.
"The Delphi car ran strong all day," said Sharp. "I had a great car but we just didn't have enough power at the end. I ran flat out for the last 30 laps and I just couldn't catch Hornish and Helio Castroneves. But it felt great to be running up front all day and with my teammates. I think this just says a lot about Kelley Racing and what a strong team we are in the IRL.
"We had a roller coaster of a season but seemed to be getting a handle on things and running better toward the end. I just can't wait for next year and I'm excited about our off season events and joining with Toyota."
Sharp's day was not without stress. Following a yellow flag pit stop on lap 96, Sharp lost the right front wheel prior to the race going green. He brought the car down pit road without damage allowing the crew to put a new wheel on the car bringing him back into the field in fourth position.
Renna's day was full of trials and tribulations as well. The accident that caused a yellow flag on lap 89 blew debris all over the track sending a piece a metal through the front wing. The team had the opportunity to exchange wings under yellow keeping him on the lead lap. Because the replacement wing was actually the spare for Unser's car, it altered the setup and changed the fuel mileage forcing Renna to pit with only five laps to go for fuel.
"Another top-ten finish isn't bad for the #78 Kruse Special/HomeMed team," said Renna. "With our original setup, we had high fuel reserve and in traffic I had the car to keep me running with the top-ten cars. When we had to change wings, it changed our fuel mileage. My crew did a great job today and we had a good run. I just want to thank Kelley Racing, Kruse Classics, HomeMed, my crew and everyone else that helped put this #78 team together and giving me the opportunity to drive."
>From the drop of the green flag, it looked to be the day for Unser, Jr. to put the #7 Corteco/Bryant car in victory lane. From his outside front row starting position, Unser ran all day with the race leaders, his car performing perfectly in the draft.
On lap 165, he started slowing and dropping positions. He radioed to the crew that the engine was going away so he brought the car down pit road ending his day.
"My Corteco/Bryant crew gave me a perfectly setup racecar today," said a dejected Unser. " I could put it anywhere on the track I wanted. Something let go in the engine but we won't know what until the guys get it back to the shop in Indy. We definitely didn't have the power to run down Sam or Helio. I am disappointed for my crew because if anyone deserved a win, it was our #7 Corteco/Bryant team. They have worked hard to improve our performance but it just wasn't meant to be today.
I want to thank everyone at Kelley Racing, my sponsors Corteco and Bryant, my crew and everyone connected with this team for the great season. I am really looking forward to our 2003 program with the new engine program."
Sharp finish the season sixth in point with 332 to Hornish' 531. Unser was seventh with 311 points and Renna was 24th 121 points.
The final official 2002 Kelley Racing event will be the IRL Banquet on October 5th at the House of Blues in Chicago, IL.