Sharp wins the Magic jackpot

In a race that had been rained out on Saturday night and rescheduled to

Sharp wins the Magic jackpot

Sunday afternoon, Scott Sharp won the closest race in IRL history, defeating Robby McGehee by 0.059-seconds to win the Casino Magic 500.
The previous closest finish to an IRL race was 0.064 seconds when Robbie Buhl defeated Vincenzo Sospiri at New Hampshire in 1997.

Sharp became the most successful driver in IRL history with five career victories. Prior to that, he was tied with Arie Luyendyk and Kenny Brack for most wins in the five-year history of the series.

The final caution period ended on lap 188 and that set up a 20-lap dash to the finish at Texas Motor Speedway. Over the final seven laps Sharp and McGehee were side-by-side and nose-to-tail, thrilling the crowd at the 1.5-mile oval.

Sharp won the race with an average speed of 169.182 miles per hour, which broke the IRL record average speed of 167.607 mph set by Juan Montoya at the Indianapolis 500 on May 28.

The final laps of the race were so frantic that Sharp's last lap was run at 208.527 mph.

"I held it down the last 20 laps. I put my left foot on top of my right foot, I wasn't letting it up," Sharp said. "I thought he might have gotten a good enough run. But I left my foot down. We were going to hit or we were going to be all right.

"It was awesome. That was a great race. I was all out every time, the whole (final) lap. When you're out there wide open, there's not much you can do."

The second-place finish by McGehee was the best in his 12 IRL starts. Al Unser Jr., racing for the first time at Texas Motor Speedway, finished third after leading a race-high nine times for 79 of 208 laps. Buzz Calkins and Scott Goodyear rounded out the top five.

It was a fantastic race with an IRL record 31 lead changes, with eight different drivers in front.

After McGehee lapped traffic on lap 201, he went wheel-to-wheel with Sharp and had his only official lead at the line two laps later. Sharp was able to get right back in front and held the inside line to keep McGehee from regaining the lead.

"All I could do on the last lap was take the outside line. I knew it wasn't the best line," McGehee said. "I tried to cut under him on the backstretch, but he had that bottom line covered."

Unser was still in the lead when he decided to pit for fuel on lap 160, briefly giving the lead back to pole-sitter Buddy Lazier with Sharp right behind him. Lazier went into the pit five laps later.

"I have never had this much fun in a single seat open wheel race car in my life," Unser said. "You don't get this kind of racing anywhere or anytime in these types of cars. I absolutely love Texas Motor Speedway, and I cannot wait to come back here in October.

"I am thrilled that my team did such an awesome job getting my car so good that it was able to run side by side with the field all day."

Sharp remained on the track, then got a huge break when Jeff Ward's blown engine on lap 171 led to a caution flag and let the leader take his last stop on under a yellow flag.

"That is probably why we are sitting here," Sharp said. "We went as long as possible and got a real lucky break. I couldn't believe it when Al Jr. went in, I knew I could run another 15 laps."

After another caution and the final restart, on lap 188, Sharp was still in front. McGehee was fourth at the time, but passed Mark Dismore in Turn 1 two laps later and needed just two more laps to move under Calkins and get in position for the late run with Sharp.

After the event was rained out on Saturday night, it was delayed 37-minutes when rain fell after 20 laps. More storms swept through the area after the race was completed.

Before the rain delay, Lazier, Dismore and Scott Goodyear set the tone for the race in the first 20 laps. There were six lead changes among the trio in the opening portion of the race, with each driver leading at least five laps.

"The formula for the Indy Racing Northern Lights Series is the formula for the future for single seat open wheel racing, and today's race proved that," Unser said. "It was clean racing and it was good racing. The competitiveness alongside with the safety of this series is unsurpassed and I just am so proud to be a part of it.

"I tell you, I love driving race cars but today was unbelievable. I was in my seat, but I promise I was standing up the whole time. We had some problems with our telemetry going from our car to the pits, which is why we had to pit so early. That caught us out later in the race and is ultimately why we went down from first, but the car was so good that we were able to get back up towards the front. I just can't say enough for what a great day this was and what a fantastic racing series this is. I can't wait for Pikes Peak next weekend."

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