Scott Stays Sharp At Miami
January 21, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Sharp set the unofficial Indy Racing Northern Light Series record at the track Thursday morning when he turned in a lap in 27.2 seconds at 198.3 mph in his Dallara-Aurora. On Friday he topped that speed and became the first driver to top 200 mph at the track, running a 200.444 mph lap.
"Within eight laps, I was within one mile an hour of the track record (Greg Ray's unofficial test lap of 197.6 mph), and the whole Delphi team is working real well together," said Sharp, who was taking part in the first day of a two-day test session at the 1.5-mile oval. "We kept working on the car, and later in the morning we ran 198 and change.
"By the time people really get dialed in, you're going to have to run 200 or faster for the pole."
Kelley Racing team manager Tim Bumps was pleased with the team's test.
"The purpose of our test was three-fold," Bumps said. "We were looking to get experience with our new engine manufacturer (Ilmor); we wanted to get Scott some laps around the track, since it's his first time here; and we wanted to start out with a good platform for our 2001 car, which we will test here in early February."
Sharp, a six-year veteran of the IRNLS, was impressed with Homestead.
"I absolutely love it here, I really do," he said. "This is going to be one of the tracks that showcase the Indy Racing equipment.
When practice begins for the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami on April 6, Sharp will be gunning for his sixth IRNLS win. With five wins, he’s already the winningest IRNLS driver.
Sharp also holds the record for closest win in IRNLS history when he squeaked by Robby McGehee by .059 seconds at Texas Motor Speedway in June of last season. The race featured 31 official lead changes and dozens of other unofficial lead changes.
Like Homestead, TMS is a 1.5-mile oval but has steeper banking. Sharps thinks that will equate to close racing.
"With the rules package the IRL's really worked hard on, the cars race side-by-side, nose-to-tail, and you're going to see 200-mph laps around here with cars side by side and eight to 10 cars in a pack," Sharp said. "I think you're going to see a great race here."
The inaugural Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami takes place April 8, marking the first appearance of the IRNLS in South Florida.
"It's great that Indy Racing is here," Sharp said. "Miami is a great place to be, and this is a beautiful race track. I'm really impressed. I felt right at home on my first lap, going down the back straight with all the palm trees. I was up to speed on my first lap."
Stan Wattles, Buddy Lazier’s new teammate at Hemelgarn-Metro Racing, and Davey Hamilton of Treadway-Hubbard Racing were also there.
Like Wattles and Hamilton, who is also with a new team in 2001, Sharp was working with some fresh faces at Kelley Racing.
"We've got a few new key people, and one of our goals is getting everyone working together and building team cohesion," Sharp explained. "That's really working, and the car's handling really well right now, we're real pleased with the Firestone tires, so everything's going quite well today."
Along with adjusting to new crew members and surroundings, Sharp was also gathering important information about the proper set-up and racing lines at the flat oval in Homestead, Fla.
"I think it's going to be pretty evident that how you qualify here is going to be a lot different than how you race," the 32-year-old Connecticut native explained. "This is going to be one of those tracks where you can qualify anywhere in the field, and if you've got a car that's solid 30 to 40 laps into a run, you're going to go to the front.
"At some tracks, qualifying and racing go hand in hand. Here, they're at opposite ends of the spectrum."
Felipe Giaffone will be one of the next drivers to take part in testing at Homestead. The new Treadway-Hubbard racing driver is scheduled to take his IRNLS rookie test at the track this weekend.
Tickets are now on sale for the race and can be obtained by calling (305) 230-7223 or by ordering online at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.