IRL: Texas winner's interview

Guests: Scott Sharp, Casino Magic 500 Race Winner Tom Kelley, team owner, Kelley Racing Host: Gary Guehler, Texas Motor Speedway <B>Gary Guehler: Well, we've got the winner of Casino Magic 500, Scott Sharp, and car owner Tom Kelley for...

Guests:
Scott Sharp, Casino Magic 500 Race Winner
Tom Kelley, team owner, Kelley Racing

Host:
Gary Guehler, Texas Motor Speedway

<B>Gary Guehler: Well, we've got the winner of Casino Magic 500, Scott Sharp, and car owner Tom Kelley for the second year. Just some really quick statistics, just remind everybody, it's Scott sixth career victory and that brings the tie to the end with the Greg Ray for the most ever. Last win, of course, was last year in the Casino Magic 500. Fifth consecutive season that he's had a victory in the IRL. And the Tom Kelley and Kelley Racing Team Delphi team, it's their sixth win total. 75,800 was the estimated attendance here tonight. Scott, I don't know if two hours could probably describe everything that went on tonight. Let's just do a brief recap, quick recap of the night for you, and we'll get into some more specifics, I'm sure there will be a few questions.

Sharp: We had a strategy, discussing with Tom before we got in the car where we planned after the disaster of Indianapolis, sort of just take it easy, fall in the line, run along, get in the draft, just sort of see how the car developed. And that seemed to work pretty well for us. I needed to do that probably the first ten laps when the car really settled in, and they were able to pick off some guys. (Inaudible) were pretty tight, so that hindered us a little bit on the first couple of stops; but once we sort of did the same thing, running along, never really pressing the point, then the guys just gave me a fabulous pit stop at the end of the race, guys called it really well, held me out there as long as they could, got a lightning fast break when we needed and that I think really helped us dictate. Obviously, it's tough to get around somebody if they stay on the inside, and so with us being in the lead, that obviously gave us a big advantage.

Guehler: What about the battle for - I mean, all strategy goes out the window there towards the end of the race. I mean, did you have anything that you were trying to mentally thinking about for the last lap, last couple of laps?

Kelley: Go as absolutely fast as he could.

Sharp: Tom said drive it on its wheels if you have to. I was worried about the tires being cut out by the debris. It's close racing tonight. Some of the closest I've ever had. I kept waiting for the boom, when I'd feel Greg's car on my right front tire. He tried to keep me pinned in on the inside, which you want to do if you're on the outside. He did a good driving job tonight; but luckily we never touched, but it came awful close there several times. At the end there, I got busy trying to defend Eddie, and more or less follow through, relying on my spotter at that point in time, and somehow Greg just made a great move, I would be able to watch it, but just swooped to the inside and I couldn't just, really have to get pretty dirty if I was to block him and he was there. I thought it was over at that point in time, and I just turned, looked upstairs and said, alright, whatever is meant to happen here, and just kept pedaling hard and just couldn't get Greg and then told to hold the lap cars to stay on the bottom of the car and let the fast cars go to the outside, but I knew that Greg probably felt if we did that, and he went to the outside he might leave a whole there and obviously you don't want to open the inside; so, he tried, looked like the lapped car got the same spot at the same time.

Guehler: How close were you when they ...

Sharp: It was pretty close. I saw stuff start flying and Greg turned sideways. Was it Greg that came across Cheever or the other guy? I turned to the right, and luckily, I was so close and able to zip right through it and obviously Cheever wasn't quite as close, got caught up in it so he was pretty unfortunate.

Guehler: Tom, how is it to own a car and sit there and watch this stuff going on?

Kelley: Well, I talked about this last year this time but, you know, it's exciting but it's horrible. You know, we had 30 some laps to go, and I thought Greg - Greg had a little bit of restart here, we figured out, and I thought Greg's best chance were on the restarts, which they were; and once Scotty could get away from Greg and get into sixth gear, I think he could hold them off. I don't think anybody could catch Scott, once he got in clean air. You know, Greg was right there beside him, never could get away from him, finally we got away from him and the yellow came out. Well, then, you go right back to this restart stuff. Unfortunately that gave Cheever and Ray a chance to catch Scotty, but it's very exciting but it's heart wrenching to watch these. You know, I told these two guys, I said you know what happened the last two Indy car races, Scott had a problem in the first turn, and Helio bumped Kenny Brack in the corner at Milwaukee. Roger called me the other day and said a few expletives about Helio, so I told him not to do that, he said you tell that Scotty and that Mark, he e-mailed from called me from London, you tell those guys to be careful. I said don't worry, Roger. Good words from Roger Penske.

Sharp: That's right.

Guehler: Scott, what is it, the team obviously comes well prepared, Mark's won here, you've won here. Do you come here expecting to go win; do you come here just hoping to be right at the lead pack? I mean, what's the mentality when you're driving for an owner like Tom?

Sharp: I tell you like team Kelley Racing, mile and a half tracks, Tom and Delphi's investment, really, they put the money to develop the cars well here, and I tell you, as I said the other day on media day, what day was that, Wednesday. I drive under this track under the tunnel coming here, and my heart rate rises. This track should be nicknamed excitement, you are excited as a driver to start racing. You know it's going to be exciting, it's going to go action-packed and wild. That's what it was. The team's just taken such a great step up. I mean, a lot of that, you know, thanks to Tom, I mean switching to Ilmor, you know, hiring the key people we hired in the off-season, doing the testing, really stepped our level up. I think that was evident from Atlanta on. I think that's one of the things that made things so heart broken at Indianapolis, we deserved, Tom deserved, everyone deserved a great finish there. So small bitter redemption there, it's a pretty big whole there, we have to fill up.

How many margaritas you can get in that trophy?

Kelley: One here, it's been about 10 hours.

Let me get this straight, you said you were going to take it easy tonight. What do you call those last 20 laps out there?

Kelley: That was the start of the race, Bruce.

Sharp: I had a lot to go then, Bruce.

As far as, how close were you when you guys were three wide over there in turn -

Sharp: I was waiting for a couple hits there, a couple different times. It was three times Cheever ducked his nose in there one time and wisely backed out because it would have been ugly; and then Greg got me there and Eddie must have a great spotter, because I figured I moved Eddie up the track a little bit but I figured to keep the hammer, but he backed out, but I was waiting for Greg's right front to hit my left rear and all three would be done. Somehow we weaseled through that one. And then of course there at the end, so it was - it was amazing, there was several times where Greg and I - you know, that's what you want to do, when you're on the outside, you want to keep the guy pinned to the bottom and make the car tight, and Greg was trying real hard to do that to me and I was trying to move Greg up, so I kept waiting for, it got so close a couple of times. I'm looking at his side pod as my right - or right front tire I thought was going to hit at any second. Somehow we got real lucky.

Could that race have made it another four laps without something happening?

Sharp: It would have been interesting. Cheever was on fire, he was on kill mode and, you know, I was trying anything I knew to get back and I didn't think Greg would let us get on the inside, so somebody was going to have to get pretty physical.

Scott, you got the Ilmor, which was really starting to prove itself. But some way that 35A is going to be something to challenge.

Sharp: I can tell you Ilmor has done an incredible job catching up, really. As I said Indianapolis, probably they didn't have an engine on the dyno until December, to catch up with these guys had a number of years head start, it's amazing; but I think we all at Kelley Racing are just excited to feel like we have equal power with the front guys. You know, obviously, pretty close matched cars out there with the Menard engine, our engine, the Infiniti obviously has picked the pace up; so I mean, there's a few other guys, you know, he could run, Ward. There's a number of guys for some reason, I mean, didn't end up being able to stay in the lead pack where they had a lot of motor. It's nice, certainly makes the team feel like we have more of a shot to win.

Kelley: I already said Dick, we are in discussion with Jim and I tell them they've got to step it up because Infinitis made a few - they only have a couple cars running. If they had 10 or 12 cars out there, I think it would be a lot better picture of what they developed.

Sharp: A lot of more Infiniti wins going on.

Kelley: Absolutely.

Sharp: Yeah.

Kelley: We're anxious to get the new Chevrolet parts next year already as soon as we can to start working on it because it's going to be close. No doubt about it, with Infiniti.

Yes, one questions I had for you was - (inaudible) race on the three so laps here tonight.

Kelley: The excitement of the three laps.

Sharp: It was pretty serious, serious level of intensity. I would say I probably had a better car this year than I did last year, so I was more relaxed in the car driving it, and for me it was just, you know, we worked all race long trying to get a little push out of the car, push out of the car, every pit stop I was on the sway bars a little bit; and just really, track position becomes paramount. If you're leading, you're trying not to let anybody get inside you, you're trying freeze, you can't come off a corner at the same time keeping the inside protected; so it was a lot of work, last few laps but they -- the excitement level was pretty high. They are clicking off pretty well.

How ironic is it last year you battle Robby McGehee right down to the end, today Robby McGehee was wasn't a factor in the race but he was a factor at the end, you know, kind of plays a role.

Sharp: Was that Robby?

Yeah.

Sharp: Oh, that was Robby, I didn't know that because he ended up over here, didn't he?

No, that was Cheever over here. Robby ended up over here.

Sharp: Somehow they all went down in that end, though, right? Yeah, I mean I guess that is a bit ironic. Robby's great driver, I know they struggled a little bit as a team, getting set up this week; but, you know, it was -- it was tough for Greg and trying to just be defensive, I think, and make sure no one could get to the bottom there, try to get underneath the lap car when the lap car was told to stay on the bottom. It was tough, basically Robby was doing his job.

For exciting as this was, for as close as the racing is, the specter of reality out there, Davey Hamilton has two badly broken legs and Robby's got a broken left leg, I mean how much does that kind of hit you in the face of reality about how serious a game this is on these tracks.

Sharp: That's the first I heard. I saw the ambulance by Davey's car and looked pretty mangled and I figured something was up; but obviously it dampers it a little bit, and I was Davey's coach for about a half an hour prior to the race, and he's going through a lot right now, so you never want to wish that on anybody. But, you know, we're cruising, that's what makes this exciting, that's probably why there's fan up in the stands. We're not running around here at 130, 140 miles an hour. I tell you, lap after lap when, the hammer's to the board and you're just, you know, trying to do everything you can to almost hang on, it's pretty quick. That's what makes it exciting. You know, I mean, if you weren't flirting with it, it wouldn't be real exciting.

Guehler: Tom, talk about just the IRL Formula, I mean you've been one the biggest supporters from the beginning. Just give us your views, is this the ultimate open-wheel racing?

Kelley: Well, I think the Formula allows for the best racing. You know, we've had two races here in the last year that are as exciting as I can stand. If it was any better than that, I would have to take Valium or something, I mean. For an owner to sit there and watch a car side by side, you know, for 20 laps or whatever number it was, I mean at 215, 17 -- they're running faster than they qualified and it's just, you know, I think the IRL is doing a good job of keeping the cars fast but reasonable, and I think that's what -- what I think is so good, they work very hard on safety. I'm sick that there's some guys hurt but, you know, we keep trying to improve the safety of the League and try to make it affordable for as many people as possible and I think the IRL has done a great job keeping the speeds under control.

Sharp: I echo Tom, just to add to that. I think the mixture, the balance is perfect right now. I mean we all -- unfortunately there's going to be those days.

Kelley: We would like a little more advantage, Scott, a little more than what we had tonight.

Sharp: But the speed versus safety versus raceability of the car is right where I think it needs to be.

Because of your growing relationship with Roger Penske, at any time after the Indy 500 did he share with his idea what he thinks of the IRL equipment?

Kelley: He likes the IRL Formula. I mean, he -- he was very complimentary of the teams, Roger called me Monday from England to wish us well, and then called me again, I think it was Friday, left me a voice mail, I was in Detroit, he called from England, congratulations on qualifying one and two. You know, Roger's got his hands full in racing; he's doing a lot of things, but he's very complimentary of the IRL. Roger would like to see one series or something, because he likes open-wheel series. Roger couldn't come to Phoenix last year. I'm talking to Roger to try to get him to run in the IRL next year. I think it will help his Indy effort in the long-haul. I said I can't do all the work for you all the time, Roger, you've got to do some of it yourself; but he's very complimentary of things. And you know, he ought to be, he won the Indy 500. But he's been very supportive, Bruce, and can't say enough nice things about it but he's got three cars in NASCAR, two cars in CART, trying to have win a championship there. Who knows how it all shakes out. He's been very complimentary of everything. He likes the control of the speed. I guess it's easier, Bruce, with our Formula to control the speed as we go along, which we have done for the past four or five years here, and keep the racing exciting, than it is in their cars right now. I think that's what they're struggling. Lowering the boost pressure, is sort of a screwy way to handle it. I think the IRL is just to run these cars flat out, which is still a challenge for the engine manufacturers, but yet we're at speeds that are as reasonable as you can call them when you're going 200 some miles an hour.

Is he open to running a full time IRL team?

Kelley: I tried to talk to him about it, you know, he won't tell me all his secrets, Bruce, on what he's going to do. I'd like to see him do it. He did go to Phoenix, he likes the series. I think it just depends on how much time Roger's got to put into it, because Roger won't do it unless he's out here to win, I can tell you that.

Scott, when you said you were far more comfortable in the car this year, when you're going through those last laps like that, is there a feeling in your gut and what is it, you know, race driver feels at moments like that?

Sharp: When I'm in the lead or when I'm not?

Either one.

Sharp: You know, I -- I'm so happy with my team right now, my guys and the opportunity Tom and Delphi has given me. I mean that sincerely. When I'm in the car I feel like I owe it to them almost to bring home a win. I've got to do whatever I possibly can do, shy of putting the thing in the fence, to get the car where it needs to be, and so I feel a big drive there and all the way really to the checker, you know, just push, push, push. Do whatever you can do, you know, keep working on the car, keep looking for whole, you know, there's some guys that made it tough for me to get by them and I had to be patient, patient for an inside to open, boom, got it; so you have to sometimes keep pushing. That's sort of the drive. I don't feel relaxed, I'm just taking it easy until I see the checkered flag.

Yes, Scott, you -- the fact this race -- the fact the race ended on a caution, does that take away from, you know, your enjoyment tonight or after Indy or does it not really matter?

Sharp: Well, after Indianapolis, I'll take a win any way we can get it right now. But I was probably only thing that puts a bit of damper on it is seeing guys I know, respect real well being in the hospital tonight. Other than that, you know, that's racing. Some race's going to end on a yellow, some races aren't. Obviously, it might have been more fulfilling to hold both those guys off and win the race, but hey, at this point in time, the team performed so well, we had a great day, led a lot of laps, we'll take the W any way we can get it.

Your thoughts on regaining the IRL career victory lead.

Sharp: Well, it's - if it was like 50 or something, Bruce, I'd be pretty excited about it; since it's only in the single digits, I'm not worrying a whole lot about. I'm sure Greg can go on a terror and easily pass me; but, you know, I'm fortunate to be with some great teams. Really this team, my sixth victory; so Tom has given us all, we all feel really like fortunate to have the group we do. We have the best team right now and obviously the team's risen to the occasion, I'm excited for the next few races.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Kenny Brack , Roger Penske