SPARTA, Ky. (AP) – Former IRL champion Scott Sharp won for the first time in more than two years, holding off Vitor Meira on Sunday to win the Amber Alert Portal Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

Sharp, driving a Honda for Delphi Fernandez Racing, became the second driver of that car to win the Kentucky Indy Racing League race in as many years, following Adrian Fernandez.

Sharp’s win was his ninth on the series, but his first since 2003, a streak of 40 winless races. He averaged 175.981 mph on the 1-mile tri-oval track and had a winning margin of 0.0779 seconds.

The 37-year-old Sharp took the lead on lap 134 of the 200-lap race, passing Dan Wheldon. Wheldon regained the lead twice, but Sharp passed him for good on lap 169 and never was headed. Sharp’s crew had a flawless pit stop during a caution on lap 172, and he blocked every subsequent attempt of Meira to pass him after that.

“He did a good job of holding his line and protecting his position,” Meira said.

Meira moved into second during that pit stop, when he beat Wheldon, the series points leader, out of the pits. It was the fourth career second-place finish for Meira, a Brazilian who never has won an IRL race. He was the runner-up to Wheldon in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Wheldon, the series points leader, finished third, the 11th time in 12 races he’s finished in the top six. Alex Barron and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five.

Sharp shared the IRL series’ inaugural title in 1996 with Buzz Calkins. But this season, Sharp’s previous best finish was second, in Japan in April. He’d had three other top-five finishes before Sunday. His previous best finish at Kentucky Speedway was second in 2001.

Rookie Danica Patrick, making her 12th career start and seeking her first series win, started on the pole for the second time this season. But she surrendered the lead to Tony Kanaan on the first lap, soon fell out of the top five and never led again.

As she did in the Indianapolis 500, Patrick stalled her car during a pit stop, on lap 71. Six laps later, after a restart, Patrick had to return to the pits because of a problem with her Honda’s gearbox. She finished 16th, 16 laps behind the leaders.

She wasn’t the only contender with problems. Tomas Scheckter, who had raced as high as third, had electronic problems with his Chevrolet and exited on lap 82. Defending series champion Tony Kanaan led 25 laps and was second, behind his Andretti Green Racing teammate Wheldon, when a faulty wheel bearing on his Honda forced him to exit the race on lap 99.

Kanaan, who completed every lap of every race last year, did not finish for the third time in 12 races this year.

“I don’t think we can blame the track,” Kanaan said. “It’s bumpy for everybody and not everybody is having the same problem.”

Another Andretti Green driver, Dario Franchitti, lost a tire following a pit stop on lap 30 and fell to 22nd in the 23-car field. He rallied to move into second by lap 124, but a problem with his suspension ended his race after 170 laps.


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