Nazareth A Gas For Sharp
April 21, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Gil de Ferran appeared well on his way to winning the inaugural Indy Racing League Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway only to run out of fuel a half lap short of the finish line. The misfortune played right into second place runner Scott Sharp's hands who roared past de Ferran disabled mount on the backstretch to take his first series victory of the season.
"Wow there is no better feeling than standing in victory lane," said a jubilant Sharp afterward. "It's a tough race for Gil to lose that way, but we've all lost races by running out of fuel. We had a great car today and I can't say enough about Tom Kelley and the crew. They did an excellent job calling a great race, pit strategy and pit work to even put me in a position to be able to win today."
Felipe Giaffone also slipped around de Ferran to finish second with de Ferran, Sarah Fisher and Helio castroneves rounding out the Top 5.
“The engine sputtered there in the middle of (Turn) 2,” de Ferran said. “We obviously were running out of fuel, and then it picked up again going through the backstretch. At one point I was afraid that we weren’t even going to make it to the line, but thankfully we picked up enough speed that I could make it to the line.
“It was a shame, but nevertheless I thought it was a great strategy by Roger and the team. It was a great run for the team, both Helio and I running up front all day. We’re just going to keep plugging along, and it (victory) will come.”
Fisher's fourth place was the 21-year-old's best IRL finish since she came close to winning to the 2001 Grand Prix of Miami last April.
"What a great day and great car," Fisher said of the Purex No. 24 entry she was in due to regular driver Robbie Buhl being sidelined by injuries he suffered at Fontana last month. "I want to thank the Dreyer & Reinbold team for giving me an opportunity and believing I could still drive a race car. This is very rewarding."
The race was slowed by seven caution flags for 116 laps the majority of which were caused by a brief shower that settled over the speedway around halfway.
Caution also waved over a variety of accidents, the most severe involving Jaques Lazier and Tomas Scheckter on lap 121. The duo touched while racing through turn three and both wound up sliding hard into the outside retaining wall. While the pair of drivers were reported to be awake and alert, they were transported by helicopter to a local hospital for observation.
Buddy Lazier also made hard contact with the wall on lap 37 when he and Sam Hornish, Jr. touched wheels. Hornish was trying to pass Lazier on the outside as a group of four cars entered turn three and clipped the rear of Lazier's mount sending him into the wall. Lazier climbed from his car unhurt but waved angrily as Hornish as he came by under caution.
Hornish kept the IRL points lead despite placing 17th, his worst finish since placing 27th October 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway with PDM Racing. Hornish’s worst prior finish in 16 starts with Panther Racing since March 2001 was 14th at the Indianapolis 500 last May.
The Indy Racing League now begins preparation for the Indianapolis 500 with Pole Day qualifying set for May 11.