Sunday, August 12, 2001

IRL polesitter hopes to change his luck

No. 1 spot has been cruel to Sharp

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPARTA, Ky. — Scott Sharp won the pole for today's Belterra Casino Indy 300 race at Kentucky Speedway, but the No.1 spot has been cruel to him in 2001.

        Sharp carved an unwanted niche in Indianapolis 500 lore in May. He won the pole but will be remembered more for spinning and crashing on the first lap to finish last.

  • Gates open: 9 a.m.
  • Race Time/TV: 1:30 p.m./Channels 9,2 (ABC)
  • Track: Kentucky Speedway (tri-oval, 1.5 miles, 14 degrees banking in turns).
  • Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps.
  • Last year: Buddy Lazier won, taking the lead for good 31 laps from the end. He moved to the top when Sarah Fisher made her final pit stop.
        Sharp started on the pole again at Kansas Speedway last month. He was running second when he crashed again, a victim of a blown tire. Finish: 17th.

        But Saturday, Sharp was smiling and high-fiving Kelley Racing teammate Mark Dismore as they earned the top two positions for today's race (1:30 p.m., ABC-TV).

        “We'd be even higher if not for Kansas and, obviously, Indianapolis,” said Sharp, who is third in the season points.

        A crowd of 18,412 attended Saturday for IRL pole day and a NASCAR Gatorade All-Pro race. Blue Ash native Jeff Fultz won the All-Pro race, giving him a sweep of both Gatorade events at Kentucky this summer.

        A crowd of more than 40,000 is expected for the race, which concludes Kentucky Speedway's second racing season.

        Sharp, a 33-year-old native of Norwalk, Conn., is an accomplished Indy racer. While not a household name, he has six career victories (one this year) and five career poles. He shared the inaugural IRL season championship in 1996 with Buzz Calkins.

        Saturday, Sharp found the quickest way around a 1.5-mile Kentucky oval that has undergone extensive patching. Drivers are still feeling bumps on the track, but Sharp went 214.598 mph through high humidity Saturday afternoon.

        “Really, it's a new track for everybody,” Sharp said. “It's a little bit bumpy, but I like that. You can work on some adjusting with your car. It's not a 100-percent power game.”

        An IRL wing adjustment, prompted by the bumpy track, reduced qualifying speeds by about 5 mph from last year.

        “It should make for some close, side-by-side racing,” Sharp said.

        Dismore ranks 17th in season points and has one career IRL victory (1999) and four poles.

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