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Sharp Wins the Pole for IRL Opener

January 24, 1999| Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Scott Sharp was the fastest in winter testing and in practice at Walt Disney World Speedway, so it was no surprise that he won the pole Saturday for the Indy Racing League season-opener.

Still, it was not easy.

In fact, the competition for the top spot in today's Indy 200 went down to the wire as Sharp knocked Raul Boesel off the pole, then stood in the pits and waited as Greg Ray went after him on the one-mile oval.

"It was worse sitting there watching than being in the car," said Sharp, whose lap of 171.371 mph gave him his second pole in the open-wheel series.

Ray, making his first start for Team Menard after replacing former series champion and 1998 race winner Tony Stewart--now running full-time in NASCAR--came close, taking the outside of the front row at 170.697. The time differential between the two laps was .083 seconds.

Boesel, who is starting his second year in the IRL after several seasons in the rival CART series, earned his best starting position since making the change. His lap was 170.197 mph.

"We knew that Scott and Greg were going to be fast, so it was good to put a little pressure on those guys," the Brazilian said. "I feel a lot of confidence in this car."

Scott Goodyear was fourth at 169.731, followed by defending series champion Kenny Brack at 168.563, Jeff Ward at 168.350 and Sam Schmidt at 168.122.

Schmidt is replacing two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, who will run only Indy this season before retiring.

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