Sunday, August 17, 2003

Consecutive-starts record is within Sharp's reach


Belterra Casino Indy 300 notebook: Today at Kentucky will mark his 70th straight

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPARTA, Ky. - Scott Sharp needs only to cross the starting line today at Kentucky Speedway to have a record day.

Sharp, of Kelley Racing, will try for his record 70th consecutive IndyCar Series start at the Belterra Casino Indy 300. He shares the record of 69 with Eddie Cheever Jr. and Buddy Lazier, who ended their streaks by not competing at the season opener at Homestead.

Sharp didn't even know he's about to break the record.

"I don't add those up. I add wins, not starts," Sharp said. "I've been fortunate. I've been with some great teams. To have a relationship with a team and a driver and a sponsor for six years is pretty unheard of."

Sharp will start in the 18th position after a best qualifying lap of 215.538 mph Saturday evening. He sits in ninth in IRL points standings.

"I'm going through a little bit of a lull right now, something I want to break out of and get stronger," Sharp said.

He has started every race since Walt Disney World in 1998.

SIMMONS VICTORIOUS: Jeff Simmons led all 67 laps to win the Kentucky 100 in 41:46.28 and earn his second consecutive Infiniti Pro Series event. After top qualifier Mark Taylor left the race, Simmons, of Keith Duesenberg Racing, started on the pole and beat Cory Witherill by .1119 of a second. The rookie won his first race at Gateway last weekend.

"We knew that once we finally got (a win), it was going to carry forward," Simmons said. "The whole team had more confidence, and we knew that we could win. ...The car ran flawless all day."

Panther Racing's Taylor, winner of five races this year and the leader going into the weekend, did not race because of what was thought to be food poisoning.

"Luckily we have had such a good year that I can afford this," Taylor said. "I was just not feeling well enough, not 100 percent."

Taylor still has the unofficial lead in the standings by 56 points.

PAINFUL EXITS: Team Menard's Vitor Meira had earned the IndyCar Series' third-best practice lap Saturday afternoon before an accident forced him to bow out less than two hours before qualifying. Meira made contact with the outside retaining wall in Turn 2. He was able to climb out of the car but suffered a fractured right wrist and was not cleared to drive.

Meira is in 23rd in IRL points.

Tom Wood of the Infiniti Pro Series also crashed Saturday afternoon during the 52nd lap of the Kentucky 100. He was battling for second place with Brandon Erwin when the cars made contact in Turn 3 and Wood hit the outside wall. Wood was airlifted to University of Kentucky Hospital.

The IRL's director of medical services announced that Wood has fractures in his middle back, right knee, right foot and both ankles and underwent surgery Saturday night for stabilization. He has full feeling in all his extremities.

SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED: The IRL's IndyCar Series announced Saturday its 2004 schedule of 16 races, all of which will be held on oval tracks. Most of the events remain the same, with the Indianapolis 500 falling May 30.

Kentucky Speedway's Belterra Casino Indy 300 will be Aug. 15.

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E-mail ckane@enquirer.com




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