Formula One
 Monday, June 12
Nothing dull about Sharp's victory
 Associated Press


FORT WORTH, Texas -- Scott Sharp won the fastest race in IRL history by the closest margin ever, and became the circuit's winningest driver.

Sharp finished with Robby McGehee right on his tail, winning the rain-delayed Casino Magic 500 Sunday by .059 seconds.

Emerging from the final caution period on Lap 188 for a 20-lap run to the finish line at Texas Motor Speedway, Sharpe and McGehee went side-by-side and nose-to-tail the last seven laps on the 1½-mile oval.

At the end, Sharp had just enough to win, with an average speed of 169.182 mph, breaking the old Indy Racing League mark of 167.607 set by Juan Montoya at the Indianapolis 500 last month.

Sharp's last lap was clocked at 208.527 mph.

"I held it down the last 20 laps. I put my left foot on top of my right foot, I wasn't letting it up," Sharp said. "I thought he might have gotten a good enough run. But I left my foot down. We were going to hit or we were going to be all right."

The previous closest finish to an IRL race was .064 seconds, with Robbie Buhl beating Vincenzo Sospiri at New Hampshire in August 1997.

While becoming the fifth different winner in as many IRL races this season, Sharp also became the first driver on the 5-year-old circuit to win five races. His last victory was in Atlanta last season.

The second-place finish by McGehee was the best in his 12 IRL starts. Al Unser Jr., racing for the first time at Texas Motor Speedway, finished third after leading a race-best nine times for 79 of 208 laps. Buzz Caulkins and Scott Goodyear rounded out the top five.

There were an IRL record 31 lead changes, with eight different drivers in front.

After McGehee lapped traffic on Lap 201, he went wheel-to-wheel with Sharp and had his only official lead at the line two laps later. Sharp was able to get right back in front and, holding the inside line, prevented McGehee from breaking past.

"All I could do on the last lap was take the outside line. I knew it wasn't the best line," McGehee said. "I tried to cut under him on the backstretch, but he had that bottom line covered."

Unser was still in the lead when he decided to pit for fuel on lap 160, briefly giving the lead back to pole-sitter Buddy Lazier with Sharp right behind him. Lazier went into the pit five laps later.

Sharp remained on the track, then got a huge break when Jeff Ward's blown engine on Lap 171 led to a caution flag and let the leader take his last stop on under a yellow flag.

"That is probably why we are sitting here," Sharp said. "We went as long as possible and got a real lucky break. I couldn't believe it when Al Jr. went in, I knew I could run another 15 laps."

After another caution and the final restart, on lap 188, Sharp was still in front. McGehee was fourth at the time, but passed Mark Dismore in Turn 1 two laps later and needed just two more laps to move under Calkins and get in position for the late run with Sharp.

The race was postponed Saturday night because of persistent rain. The race started on time Sunday and, despite a 37-minute rain delay after 20 laps, was completed just before more storms moved into the area.

The only other IRL race ever postponed at least a day by rain was the 1997 Indianapolis 500, which was delayed two days and run on a Tuesday.

Lazier led 62 laps, but finished in eight place, just ahead of Eddie Cheever Jr., who a day earlier won the True Value International Race of Champions Series race in Michigan.

Cheever was in the top five until a 31-second pit stop. During a routine stop after 119 laps, his engine stalled and the extended time in the pit getting it started was costly. Within 10 laps, Cheever was a lap down and out of contention.

Team owner A.J. Foyt lost a chance to take home the trophy bearing his name when both of his cars, driven by Ward and Eliseo Salazar, blew engines within 10 laps of each other -- on 171 and 181, the pivotal cautions for the winner.

Before the rain delay, Lazier, Dismore and Scott Goodyear set the tone for the race in the first 20 laps. There were six lead changes among the trio in the opening portion of the race, with each driver leading at least five laps.


 Scott Sharp edges out Robby McGehee to take the checkered flag.
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 McGehee goes high and tries to pass Sharp.
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 Sharp takes the lead in the pits.
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 Scott Sharp says he wasn't going to give up the lead.
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 It was an incredibly fun ride for Al Unser Jr.
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 IRL official Brian Barnhardt was on pins and needles throughout the race.
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