July 20, 2005 | 10:55 A.M. EST
Scott Sharp will take the green flag in Sunday's Indy Racing League ABC Supply 200 at the Milwaukee Mile for the 100th straight time in his IndyCar Series career. It's an "Ironman" streak that the veteran driver is proud to own.
"I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had with the different owners," Sharp said. "It started with A.J. Foyt, and of course now, has moved on to the Fernandez team, which I'm really thrilled to be a part of. I think it's all about -- racing is all about opportunity, period. It's great to have a run like that. For me, I'm an extremely competitive individual, so I don't really focus on how many races I've run; I'm much more focused on how many races I've won. For me, I would trade 10 wins for 100 starts any day."
A former Trans-Am Series champion, Sharp made the jump to open wheel racing in 1993, when he piloted a Bettenhausen Motorsports entry in the Long Beach Grand Prix. He made the full leap to racing without fenders the following season as part of the PacWest Racing team on the CART circuit. That year, Sharp made his Indianapolis 500 debut, starting 17th and finishing 16th.
But when open wheel racing split after the 1995 season, Sharp's racing career changed forever. He ran the entire inaugural season of the fledgling Indy Racing League that year, eventually going on to become co-champion with Buzz Calkins.
That's a lot of memories packed into a relatively short period of time. Which ones stand out for Sharp?
"There's so many," he answered. "You know, there's so many. I think from a general perspective, I think to get in some of those very intense moments, especially on some of the mile and a half or bigger tracks where you're three-wide, big pack running, three or four rows deep, that's just really exciting racing, especially when you can of course win, but certainly going right down to the line, having a chance to win. Personally, of course, winning the pole at Indianapolis a few years ago was a big accomplishment, as well as each of the wins you get. You know, they're always special in their different ways. A lot of great memories."
After winning his first career IRL race for A.J. Foyt Racing at New Hampshire in 1997, Sharp jumped to the new Kelley racing team the following season. Sharp won seven times for the team, but the marriage ended last season when financial woes, among other things, plagued the combination.
This season Sharp, with long-time sponsor Delphi, joined part-time driver/car owner Adrian Fernandez's team. It's been an up and down season, but Sharp has notched six Top 10 finishes, including a fourth last Saturday night in Nashville.
"Yeah, we're pleased," said Sharp, who comes into Milwaukee sixth in the series standings. "Everyone wants to be No. 1. You know, everyone always wants to be better, I think. I think what the Fernandez team did last year, they missed the first race, and, boy, by the middle of the season they really hit a stride and went on and won a few races. In fact, I think they finished fifth in the championship. I felt with me moving over to the team and some of the subtleties that changed with the Panoz chassis over the winter, it would take us a little bit to get the optimum communication going, you know, developing the best setups. I think we really have a lot of momentum right now."