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Sharp Wins Dura-Lube 200

March 23, 1998

PHOENIX (AP) _ Scott Sharp got away quickly coming out of the final caution period of the Dura-Lube 200, and outraced Tony Stewart in a three-lap sprint Sunday to the second victory of his Indy Racing League career.

Sharp almost won on the one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway two years ago, the first IRL event in Phoenix, but finished second to Arie Luyendyk after he was penalized coming out of a pit stop.

``We had the right setup, and we were great in the pits. It’s a great feeling,″ said Sharp, who won in New Hampshire in 1996 but crashed practicing for last year’s Indianapolis 500 and hadn’t finished higher than sixth since. He won $106,750.

There was no denying the 30-year-old Californian, and his Dallara-Aurora as won by 2.366-seconds _ about half a straightaway. Stewart had trouble getting past Sharp’s Kelley Racing teammate, Mark Dismore, on the final restart.

``We’ll have to get them at Indy,″ said Stewart, the defending series champion. ``Second is better than third any day, but I got a little bad break there at the end.″

Sharp, who started eighth, said he didn’t think Stewart was at a disadvantage.

``It was comforting to have Mark behind me for the last restart, but David Cripps told me over the radio that we were as quick or quicker than Tony Stewart,″ Sharp said, relating a conversation with the Kelly operations VP.

Wrecks that yellow-flagged 80 of 200 laps, held the average speed to 98.110 mph _ still faster than Jim Guthrie’s 89.190 of last year. Stewart also finished second in that race.

Guthrie failed to qualify this year.

Billy Boat was third, giving the Dallara chassis two of the first three spots, with Stephan Gregoire fourth and polesitter Jeff Ward fifth.

IRL points leader Stewart has run all 14 events in the three-year-old series. He had won two of his previous five races _ including the first event of this year, at Orlando, Fla.

He led 127 laps, but gave up the front when he pitted for tires and fuel during a caution because of a slower car’s spinout on the 169th lap.

Seven laps later, the 10th caution tightened the field again. Stewart, slowed when Dismore _ driving a damaged car that finished 175 laps _ failed to let him by.

Boat narrowly avoided disaster in the last crash, slowing down and dropping inside as Mike Groff and fifth-place starter Kenny Brack tangled when three cars went abreast into a dogleg entering the back straightaway.

``I don’t know how many wide we were in the dogleg, but it was more than you can fit in,″ Boat said.

His quick handling allowed him to stay with Sharp and Stewart as the only cars on the lead lap.

Luyendyk, the defending Indy 500 winner, was knocked on the 59th lap.

Eliseo Salazar spun coming out of a turn onto the backstretch, and Luyendyk couldn’t avoid him. The impact flipped Luyendyk’s car upside down and sent it skidding 300 yards across the pavement.

Salazar, who qualified sixth, also was knocked out of the race.

Eddie Cheever started 20th, but passed nine cars in the first 10 laps. When 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier hit the wall in the 11th lap, Cheever moved into 10th place. He later led six laps, but finished 10th.

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