Originally created 07/20/98

Sharp wins crash-filled Dover race



DOVER, Del. -- Scott Sharp won with sore hands, and Buddy Lazier finished second with aching teeth.

And they were the only two Indy Racing League drivers who had a good time Sunday at troublesome Dover Downs International Speedway.

"After 40 laps, my hands were tired, and I knew why they call it the Monster Mile," Sharp said. "And then I thought about it and realized I still had 208 to go.

"I kept telling myself, `You can't get too tired,' and I was just holding on, trying to deal with the bumps and trying to figure out where second place was."

Back there was Lazier, hoping his chronically bad back would withstand the punishment and he that he wouldn't require dental work in the aftermath.

"All of my teeth are hurting," he said "You can't use a mouth guard because you can't breath."

With the victory in the crash-filled Pep Boys 400k, Sharp took the IRL points lead from Tony Stewart.

It was the second win of the year and third in Sharp's career. He outclassed pole-sitter and overwhelming favorite Stewart in the first Indy-car race in the last 29 years at Dover Downs International Speedway.

The crowd at the 107,000-seat facility appeared to be about 25,000. They and the drivers learned the true meaning of the high-banked track's nickname. At the end, just 10 of 22 starters were running.

By the 201st of 248 laps, only Lazier, Sharp and Arie Luyendyk remained on the lead lap. On lap 203, Sharp, who led 145 laps on the concrete oval, got by Lazier entering the first turn.

A lap later, Luyendyk found the wall on turn four, bringing out the last of seven cautions.

Sharp, who collected $128,550 from a purse of $1 million, felt fortunate to have escaped unscathed. He said Stewart's awareness at one point was the reason.

Sharp was making a pass beneath Stewart, then realized he had run out of room and was touching the apron off the banking -- almost a certain recipe for disaster.

"I thought maybe both of us would crash," Sharp said. "But he saw me more than I saw him, he steered up high and we got through it without causing a mess."

Stewart started on the pole after qualifying at a speed of nearly 3 mph faster than Davey Hamilton, and dominated the early part of the race. But the 30-year-old Sharp was considerably quicker on restarts, and assumed control of race by the 86th lap.

After another 20 laps, Stewart's ill-handling car was out contention.

He, too, was assaulted by the Monster.

"It was so bumpy out there ... it shook the dash loose, and the dash was laying in my lap. We came in three or four times to tape the dash back."

He wound up eighth, and now trails Sharp 202-194 in the championship race.

The 27 year-old Stewart, the reigning IRL champion, is leaving after this season to race on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. He has plans to return to the IRL only for the Indianapolis 500.

The attrition rate posed a further problem for the teams. They must get their cars ready to run again Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Rookie Steve Knapp and Robby Unser were taken to Kent General Hospital as a result of their crashes. Knapp had a slight concussion, and Unser had a hairline fracture of the left foot. Both were released.

Their crashes and the others slowed the race for 99 laps, reducing Sharp's average speed to just 99.318 mph. Stewart had won the pole at 185.204.

Sharp, who won earlier this season at Phoenix, won from the fourth position on the grid. He preserved his car near the end, and his Dallara/Aurora beat that of Lazier by .689 seconds.

Third, two laps down, was G-Force/Aurora of Marco Greco, followed by that of Davey Hamilton. The G-Force/Aurora of Stephan Gregoire was four laps down.

There were nine lead changes among five drivers.