ALMS Lime Rock notebook Scott Sharp will return to his home state - and home track - for the first time in 15 years this summer at the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. His move this season from the Indy Racing League to the American Le Mans Series brings his career full-circle, as he began his professional driving career racing sports cars and is returning to the arena once again.
The son of six-time SCCA national champion Bob Sharp, Scott got an early taste for the thrill and excitement of sports-car racing at Lime Rock. Sharp made his mark in the sports-car arena by winning the SCCA GT2, GT1 (twice) and two Trans-Am Championships in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1996, the first year of the Indy Racing League, he was the IndyCar co-champion. His impressive career in the IRL included nine IndyCar event wins and 35 top-five finishes. He holds the league record of 138 consecutive IndyCar starts. The 2008 season marks Scott's debut in the American Le Mans Series for Patron Highcroft Racing, a Danbury, CT-based team that is fielding an Acura ARX-01b in LMP2.
Sharp already has tasted victory as he and David Brabham won the LMP2 class at the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach in April, only Sharp's third start with the team.
"Lime Rock is ingrained as part of my childhood landscape," said Sharp. "My earliest memories are of sitting on the hill above the track with my sister and mother, watching my dad race. It was my 'home away from home,' for sure, and helped grow my love of the sport. Last time I competed at this track was in the Trans-Am series in 1993. I can't believe it's been 15 years!"
Sharp attended the Skip Barber Driving School at Lime Rock when he was 17. He started practicing in his first race car in the fall of 1985, a Datsun 280z, which was the car he started to race professionally the next year in the SCCA. Sharp won the race at Lime Rock that year and went on to win the national championship.
Although Sharp never competed against his father, he remembered, "coming here all the time for his races. The crew would sneak me through the pits when my dad won so I could take the victory lap with him and stand up on the podium when I was no higher than his knee."
Sharp also spent time there with another racing legend. "I spent a lot of time with my dad and Paul Newman at Lime Rock when they were racing together. I remember testing with Paul in the 280z and a stock car that we'd taken out of my dad's dealership showroom."
BELL'S BACK: A new-look Bell Motorsports returns to the American Le Mans Series this week with a completely rebuilt Aston Martin DBR9 that again will challenge Corvette Racing's two factory Corvette C6.Rs. The Bell GT1 challenger was severely damaged in a crash at St. Petersburg in early April but extensive work by the team crew means Terry Borcheller and Chapman Ducote will be back behind the wheel.
The Jim Bell-owned team has recorded more than 4,000 man hours to get the car back together and race-ready. Although the team and drivers remain the same, the car will have the usual Bell Motorsports blue and silver, a departure from the Aston Martin Racing green that the DBR9, owned by O So Fresh founder Michael Fux, displayed at Sebring and St. Petersburg.
"The car looks and feels better than before" Ducote said, "and I am anxious to get it on the new Lime Rock circuit. I am glad to see the silver and blue livery. Terry and Jim have had huge success with these colors in the past."
BLACK SWAN'S FIRST FLIGHT: Black Swan Racing's Ford GT is set to make its American Le Mans Series debut in Friday's first practice session, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. The freshly built GT2 racer will arrive at Lime Rock earlier in the morning from constructor Doran Enterprises.
Team owner Tim Pappas and Anthony Lazzaro will drive the Ford GT. Pappas competed last season in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR before making the move to the Ford. Lazzaro is a previous winner at Lime Rock, having won in a Risi Competizione Ferrari with Ralf Kelleners in 2004.
GLANCE AT THE GRID: The 2008 American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park marks the American Le Mans Series' fifth trip to the demanding venue. Eleven drivers entered for 2008 have amassed 20 previous wins there in American Le Mans Series competition: Olivier Beretta (2004 GTS, 2005 GT1, 2007 GT1); Joerg Bergmeister (2006 and 2007 GT2); Timo Bernhard (2005 GT2, 2006 P2); Dindo Capello (2006 overall and P1, 2007 P1); Romain Dumas (2005 GT2, 2006 P2); Oliver Gavin (2004 GTS, 2005 GT1, 2007 GT1); Lazzaro (2004 GT); Patrick Long (2006 GT2); Sascha Maassen (2007 P2/overall); Johannes van Overbeek (2007 GT2); and Marco Werner (2004 and 2005 overall).
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix is race is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race from noon to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 13. XM Satellite Radio will air the event live on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Additional live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.