Race: Sharp redeems himself in Texas

After experiencing humiliation when he crashed into the first turn wall on the first lap after starting on the pole in the May 27th Indianapolis 500, Scott Sharp achieved redemption by winning Saturday night's Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Race: Sharp redeems himself in Texas

Sharp was involved in a fierce three-car battle with Greg Ray and Eddie Cheever throughout the closing portions of the race, thrilling the announced crowd of 70,800 fans at Texas Motor Speedway. Ray won a three-wide battle with 10 laps remaining as he passed Sharp and Cheever in the third turn.

Ray appeared on his way to victory before the Plano, Texas native slammed into the back of a slower car driven by Robby McGehee with just four laps remaining while in the lead. That started a multi-car crash that also took out the third-place car driven by Eddie Cheever.

Cars, tyres and debris went flying as Sharp weaved his way through the wreckage as the yellow flag waved. The race ended under the caution flag with Sharp recording an IRL record sixth career victory in the series.

"I thought I had thrown it all way," Sharp said. "Greg move by Greg. I got busy looking in my mirrors watching Eddie. Then all of a sudden I saw the blue dart (Ray's car) swoop underneath me. I just didn't have enough room to run him down. He had the inside line. I thought, `Oh man, it's over with.' The next thing I know, Greg tried to get underneath, which I probably would have done."

McGehee was airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas with a broken left leg and concussion. He was the second driver that was injured in the race.

Earlier, a serious three-car crash sent Davey Hamilton to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas with fractures to his lower extremities. The crash came on lap 73 when the engine in Jeret Schroeder's engine blew up, spewing oil out of the rear as it entered the second turn. Hamilton's car was at full throttle when it hit the oil, slamming hard into the outside of the second turn wall and tumbling down the backstretch.

Sarah Fisher pulled low on the track, but punted one of the errant wheels from the two racing cars involved in the crash into an infield area. A fence blocked the wheel from going into a crowded area of campers and motor homes.

Hamilton was airlifted by helicopter to Parkland, where he is being treated for his fractures. Hamilton is the only driver that has competed in all 48 races in IRL history and with a race next Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway, it appears that streak will come to an end.

"His feet are really hurt, they are pretty messed up," said Hamilton's team owner, Sam Schmidt. Schmidt is paralyzed from the neck down after he crashed in practice at Walt Disney World Speedway on January 6, 2000. "Luckily, nothing else is wrong. The right foot looks like it's coming along, but the left foot is definitely worse. We have to pray for Davey. His injuries are three or five times worse than when I broke my foot here two years ago."

Schroeder said he had no warning when his engine blew.

"It felt like I lost an engine," Schroeder said. "It could have been the gearbox, but it felt more like the engine. I just decreased my speed, oiled up the tires and crashed in Turn 2. Something definitely broke in the back, though. There was no indication of any problem. The car was actually running well."

Sharp finished ahead of IRL points leader Sam Hornish Jr. and rookie Felipe Giaffone, but second place is under protest after Giaffone and Treadway Racing claim that Hornish passed the driver while the yellow caution light was on. IRL officials are not expected to make an announcement regarding the official order of finish until Monday morning.

Defending IRL champion Buddy Lazier was fourth followed by Donnie Beechler.

Sharp won US$125,000 and won at an average speed of 150.873 miles an hour around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

When it comes to racing at Texas Motor Speedway, the question for the Indy Racing League has become "How can you top this?" The IRL succeeded Saturday night with a thrilling battle in one of the best Indy car races in recent memory as Sharp was able to survive a three-car battle that included Ray and Cheever in the final quarter of the race.

Pole sitter Mark Dismore maintained the lead at the start of the race before Cheever took the lead on the third lap. Cheever had the dominant car in the first half of the race and was in the lead by 5.0161 seconds when the yellow flag waved after the multi-car crash on the 73rd lap involving Schroeder, Hamilton and Fisher.

Ray was first out of the pits in the ensuing pit stop under caution and was in front of Cheever when the green flag waved on lap 88. Cheever was putting serious pressure on Ray before he had to pull into the pits on the 102nd lap because of a vibration.

His crew changed all four tires and sent him back onto the track, one lap down to the leaders. When another yellow flag waved after Airton Dare's car came to a stop on the track because of a wheel bearing failure on lap 106. After the rest of the field pitted, Cheever was able to get back on the lead lap when the race was restarted on lap 116.

After a caution period for debris, the race was restarted on lap 161 with Indy 500 pole winner Scott Sharp in the lead followed by Ray, Jeff Ward, Sam Hornish Jr. and Cheever. Three laps later, Ray went to the outside of Sharp and the two cars raced side by side for the next 15 laps.

The last yellow flag of the race waved on lap 183 when Jeff Ward, running fourth at the time, lost a wheel bearing on the wheel of his car. The green flag waved on lap 188 setting up a fierce battle that ultimately ended with three cars crashing, four laps from the chequered flag.

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