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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


Early wrecks take out favorites

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis 500 pole-setter Scott Sharp attended the 7:30 a.m. IRL Ministries church service on the first floor of the Worldcom media center on race day. Greg Ray and Sharp were in the congregation when minister Mark Wingler prayed for the safety of the drivers. Sharp and others might be wishing they had also prayed for a warmer race track.\nSkies were cloudy and the temperature was 56 degrees at the start of the race, a far cry from the mild temperatures of time-trials and qualifications. The temperature change plagued the race's beginning as many big names found themselves eliminated early.\nOn the first lap, Sharp jumped out in front of Ray and Robby Gordon when the green flag fell, but his lead -- and race -- didn't last long as he lost control coming out of turn 1, slamming into the outside retaining wall, ending his day before it even began. It was the second consecutive time that the pole-setter had finished last. \nAfter Sharp, his totaled car and two truck loads of debris made it back to the Delphi Racing garage, he stayed there for nearly an hour before talking to the press. Once he emerged, Sharp expressed his disappointment.\n"I'm not really sure what happened," Sharp said. "Obviously we all knew that the track temperature was 15 degrees colder than carb day, and I lifted a lot more in turn one then some of the practice starts we had done. It just snapped right out from under me, and I thought I could almost catch it."\nSharp mentioned prior races where track temperatures had been even cooler than Sunday's, catching him off guard. \n"I can't even begin to put into words how sorry I feel for so many people (at Delphi Racing) that have worked so hard," Sharp said. "This is a place that I love but it hasn't been to kind yet."\nTwo other drivers were eliminated on lap 8 -- Sarah Fisher and Scott Goodyear.\nAfter the wreck prematurely ended Fisher's second Indy 500, five goals illustrating the team's high hopes remained on a chalkboard in the Walker Racing garage.\n"1. Relax; 2. Patience; 3. Smile (We're at Indy); 4. Win; 5. Be consistent."\nCrew member Scott Turner said Fisher, 20, and the team accomplished all but number four.\nWhile exiting Turn 2, Fisher did a half-spin, hit the outside retaining wall with the rear of her car and collected Scott Goodyear's car. She climbed out on her own, but Goodyear was not as fortunate. Goodyear was the only driver injured in the 85th Indianapolis 500. He remains in Methodist Hospital with a broken back. Fisher's father once raced karts against Goodyear.\nFisher called her run "very disappointing."\nOnly the third woman to qualify for the Indy 500, in 1999 Fisher became the youngest person to ever compete in the IRL. She attends an Indianapolis college where she is studying mechanical engineering and business. She qualified 15th for this year's race.\nFisher said cold tires made her car loose and impossible to handle.\n"Through the whole month of May, it was never this cold here," Fisher said. "There's absolutely no grip."\nTeam Owner Derrick Walker said taking the good with the bad is part of being a good driver.\n"The conditions were not the worst ever, but if you have a car with a balance that's off, it magnifies your problems," Walker said.\nWalker said Fisher's early exit is "not a reflection on her abilities."\nAfter Fisher crashed, some of her fans gathered on a balcony opposite her garage. Among them was Tonya France of Mertel, Ind.\nFrance said she's been a fan of Fisher since she saw her in a sprint car race in Gas City, Ind.\n"It's a shame," France said. "It's neat seeing someone so young race in the IRL. (The league) gives sprint car drivers and young drivers a chance."\nWhen Fisher finally rode up to her garage in a golf cart, she waved as the fans gave her an ovation.\nOn lap 17, two time champ Al Unser Jr. was eliminated while trying to avoid Sam Hornish Jr., who spun because his car was loose due to cold temperatures.\n"It's not a white-line thing. It's just that we're not getting up to speed," Unser said. "It's not a fact of a cold day. It's a fact that we needed to run some more laps. We didn't get our momentum going yet"

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