Amber Alert Indy 300
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Has-Been to Victory Lane
by Esteban Morales
 

August 14, 2005

    As the now defunct Kelley Racing team dipped into its less stellar years speculation grew within the paddock. Many guessed at the troubling issues hidden behind the team's closed doors. Perhaps the cause for the decline in performance was its choice in package, a cut in sponsorship, a waning team owner, or long-time driver Scott Sharp. Following the disintegration of Tom Kelley's team, Sharp with sponsor in tow, found a refreshing new home at Fernandez Racing in 2005. While most were ready to discount the veteran, he proved it was simply a matter of finding the right package once again.

Kanann Leads the Opening Lap

     Although weather did not affect the start of the Amber Alert Indy 300 held at Kentucky Speedway, it did extinguish any chance of qualifying. As a result, Danica Patrick picked up her second pole of the year after the starting grid was set according to practice times. Patrick was unable to hold onto the lead after towing the field to the green though. Tony Kanaan characteristically dove to the front on the opening lap and emerged with the lead while teammate Dan Wheldon followed closely and snatched it on just the fourth lap. Wheldon continued to lead while the pole-sitter lingered with the leaders. A lap 28 yellow for Scott Dixon's blown engine halted the pace and was indicative of what was to come as a result of the bumpy oval.

     Wheldon led the field to pit road during the yellow but swapped the lead with Kanaan after a slow stop. The Brazilian kept his Dallara in front up until lap 47 when Wheldon moved around him for the lead. Wheldon led comfortably but was slowed with a second yellow after Ed Carpenter made contact with the turn 2 SAFER Barrier; it appeared that a rear suspension piece in Carpenter's car failed sending him into the wall. Pit stops yielded the same results as before with Kanaan emerging in the lead.

     The lap 76 restart saw Wheldon eagerly jump back onto point. Just one lap later attrition continued further in the field as Danica Patrick slowed with gearbox issues. A handful of laps later Tomas Scheckter headed towards the pits with engine maladies. Wheldon found himself all alone at the sharp end of the field when Kanaan coasted into the pits after encountering a suspension failure just before the halfway mark. Vitor Meira saw the opening and used it to hound Wheldon as he searched for that elusive first victory. By lap 107 Meira caught and moved around the leader on the high side. A caution for debris emerged a few laps later; leaders again pitted with Meira losing the lead to Wheldon during the exchange. Meira kept Wheldon in his sights after the restart as the two battled side-by-side for a slew of laps but was unable to pass the leader. He eventually faltered just enough for Dario Franchitti and Scott Sharp to find a way through.

Scott Sharp Wins the Amber Alert 300

     Sharp quickly made a serious bid to lead the event by disposing of Franchitti on lap 130 and finding a way around Wheldon just four laps later. Sharp and Wheldon began a furious battle with both drivers almost locking wheels on multiple occasions. Just when it appeared Wheldon may have had the best of Sharp the yellow flew one last time; Franchitti slowed dramatically after encountering a wheel bearing failure. Sharp did not give way in the pits and kept his lead to the end while surviving a late-race charge from Vitor Meira to collect his first win since Motegi in 2003. Wife Kimberly Sharp had much to say about the victory, "All he wanted to do was lead a lap...to show he's not a has-been." Sharp did so and then some, repeating for the Fernandez Racing crew after team owner Adrian Fernandez found victory lane at the same venue last season; Sharp may just be looking to emulate his team owner's late season charge and pick up another two victories before year's end.

Results:

1. Scott Sharp
2. Vitor Meira
3. Dan Wheldon
4. Alex Barron
5. Helio Castroneves
6. Buddy Lazier
7. Sam Hornish Jr.
8. Kosuke Matsuura
9. A.J. Foyt IV
10. Jimmy Kite
11. Tomas Enge
12. Patrick Carpentier
13. Ryan Briscoe
14. Buddy Rice
15. Jaques Lazier
16. Danica Patrick
17. Roger Yasukawa
18. Dario Franchitti
19. Bryan Herta
20. Tony Kanaan
21. Tomas Scheckter
22. Ed Carpenter
23. Scott Dixon