Scott Sharp broke a tie with Kenny Brack and Arie Luyendyk for the most IRL race wins with a narrow win in a wild race at Texas.

Despite being plagued by unseasonable weather all weekend, Texas Motor Speedway provided the fans of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series with an amazing spectacle of racing. The Casino Magic 500 of the year 2000 will go down as one of the greatest races in the history of the IRL with non-stop excitement for the entire 208 lap duration.

From the word go there was action as pole sitter Buddy Lazier pulled into an early lead. The 27 car field stayed together throughout the opening laps before a dozen cars slowly began to inch away from the mid field runners. This bunch was initially led by Lazier and Scott Goodyear who had started well from third place, behind these two cars swarmed everywhere with numerous slipstreaming battles continuing throughout the field. Goodyear relieved Lazier of the lead after just three laps only to be re-taken by the Hemelgarn driver two laps later.

Behind these two, Mark Dismore, Al Unser Jr, Eddie Cheever, Jeff Ward, Robbie Buhl, Eliseo Salazar and Sharp delighted the crowd with a frantic scrap for the remaining top ten places with Robby McGehee, Airton Dare, Greg Ray and Buzz Calkins also moving up well from lowly starting slots.

Dismore took the lead with a brave manoeuvre on Goodyear on lap 12 and kept the lead for four laps before Lazier overhauled him. For the opening 18 laps the race was run at a blistering pace but that can to a halt on lap 19 when spots of rain began to fall. With no other options, the officials stopped the race and sat the rain out. Thankfully it was only a brief shower and after a delay of nearly 45 minutes, the track was deemed dry enough for racing to resume.

As the field went under green on lap 22 Lazier kept his lead, closely followed by Dismore, Goodyear, Salazar, Unser et al. The Hemelgarn driver then controlled proceedings for a further six laps before being shuffled back by Salazar who led just a single lap before Lazier was able to draft past him.

Somehow Lazier maintained his lead for 15 laps between lap 30 and 45 although for most of that time he was mere inches ahead of Cheever and Unser Jr who ran side by side for whole laps at a time. With all this heart stopping action going on around the circuit, an accident seemed inevitable but there was no contact and the field remained under green until lap 62 when Billy Roe's engine blew leaving oil on the track.

This enabled the leaders to pit together, everyone behaving themselves in the pit-lane with Lazier now back in front after some lightning quick work by his team. Unser Jr had been leading when the caution came out and dropped back to second in the pits shuffle. However on the re-start it took the Galles ECR driver just a single lap to draft past Lazier and into the lead once again. Lazier and 'Little Al then traded places almost continuously for the best part of 40 laps, thrilling the crowd with numerous dare-devil moves which saw the cars just inches apart at speeds of well over 200mph.

Not that these were the only drivers providing excitement for almost directly behind them, Cheever, Sharp, Dismore and Goodyear battled wildly for third place.

Unser Jr held the lead as the race reached its half way mark at which point the first of the leading contenders dropped by the wayside, Billy Boat stopping with a dead engine. Shortly after Boat's demise, the leaders began to think about pitting for a second time. With most of the field still neck and neck an accident was as likely as ever making it impossible to second-guess any possible caution periods.

Eventually everyone pitted under green with Unser beating Lazier out of the pits when the pair stopped on lap 111. As the leading cars dived in an out of the pits the lead continued to change hands with Cheever, McGehee and Dismore taking further turns at the point before Unser Jr returned to the lead.

If it can be called such, there was then a lull in the action as Unser used all his oval experience to maintain his advantage for the next 30 laps although the following dozen cars were still perched on his rear wing. Unser would eventually get the award for leading most laps on the day with a total of 79.

Finally on lap 159, Lazier managed to overhaul Unser and was quickly followed by Dismore and Sharp who moved into the picture for the first time.

By this moment the mice had begun to get at the machinery with Donnie Beechler joining Boat, Roe, Davey Hamilton, Robby Unser and Doug Didero on the sidelines. Shortly after Beechler disappeared, Sam Hornish Jr also went out, leaving just 20 machines on the track. This was still an ample amount to provide maximum excitement for the crowd as the top ten continued to circulate almost as one.

As the race passed the 160 lap mark, thoughts once again turned to the pit-lane as all the leaders needed just one more stop to bring them home. With no caution for nearly 100 laps, a second round of green flag pit-stops was on the cards and Unser Jr started the ball rolling just before the 170 lap mark. The lack of a fuel saving draft whilst leading had had an adverse effect on Little Al's fuel mileage figures and he was forced to pit earlier than everyone else although Goodyear was also in early in an effort to gain track position over his rivals. The plan failed however as on lap 171 Jef Ward's Aurora engine let go in a big way leaving oil on the track and forcing a caution. This was a disaster for Unser Jr and Goodyear who now found themselves out of the lead battle.

For Sharp, Dismore, Lazier, McGehee and the other leaders, the caution could not have been better placed as it allowed them to take their time during the tyre and fuel stops in what had become one of the most important pit-stops of the IRL season so far.

It was Sharp who won the race back onto the track although his closest challengers were now Lazier, Dismore and Buzz Calkins who had been with the leading group all day. Calkins had originally qualified his Bradley Motorsports Dallara in fourth place but was demoted to 19th when the rains came. The inaugural IRL co-champion was proving to his fans that he still has the ability to battle as hard as anyone else, moving into a potential race winning position at precisely the right time.

It was a shock when the caution flag came out again on lap 181 and suddenly the fans sensed that maybe their luck had come to an end. In a race full of excitement, was it all going to fall to pieces in the last 30 laps. Thankfully the yellow was brief and was only called for as a result of more oil finding its way onto the track and on lap 188 the remaining 18 cars (Salazar having joined the retirees) were let loose once again.

Sharp led the train away with his Kelley Racing team-mate Dismore in second. Calkins was third ahead of McGehee, Lazier, Cheever, Unser Jr and Goodyear. With Salazar's retirement there were now only eight cars left on the lead lap although the crowd didn't seem to mind too much, cheering and gasping at almost every turn, in awe of the racing they were witnessing.

Sharp duked it out with his team-mate for several laps and although Dismore nosed ahead on a couple of occasions, he did not manage to lead a lap in the latter period of the race. Gradually Dismore fell away leaving Calkins to take up the cudgels. However he wasn't the main concern to the leader as the main focus now turned on an inspired McGehee. Denied the chance to shine fully at Indy when his car let him down, the 1999 Indy 500 rookie of the year swiftly dispatched Dismore and moved up to hassle Calkins. Buzz had no answer for the Treadway driver and ten lap from home McGehee swept into second.

Now the race really reached boiling point. Sharp continued to lead although McGehee stayed with him on the outside line for several laps. On lap 202 McGehee managed to take the lead although the margin was never more than the length of a single car.

The crafty Sharp used all his experience to keep McGehee on the outside line and two laps later he was back in front. Calkins had now dropped away in third with one eye on his fuel gauge and was passed by a recovering Unser Jr who was livid at being denied the opportunity of battling for the win.

As the race entered its final 1.5 miles, the entire crowd were on their feet. Sharp had the inside line but McGehee had the confidence to keep his car on the high line. Onto the back straight and the two were literally side by side, into turn three and McGehee nosed ahead but Sharp had the momentum to keep him in-front on the run to the flag. McGehee made one last ditch attempt as they approached the flag and was centimetres away from the wall as the two flashed past the line.

It took even the IRL's latest scoring equipment a little time to comprehend the margin of victory but Sharp was finally credited as the winner with 59 thousandths of a second to spare.

"It was awesome," described Sharp later. "That was a great race. I was all out every time, the whole (final) lap. When you're out there wide open, there's not much you can do."

McGehee was gracious in defeat but it was felt that on this occasion, the youngster from St Louis was hardly a loser. "When I passed Buzz, I said I was going to get Sharp," said the exhausted driver. " I probably made a mistake. I should have done everything I could to get the inside lane. It was the most exciting racing I've ever been involved in."

Even Unser Jr who missed out on the final dash to the flag, was full of praise for the other drivers. "I have never had this much fun in a single-seat, open wheel race car in my life," said the two time Indy 500 winner. When someone such as Al Unser Jr says that, it must have been a good race.

Calkins stayed the course to finish fourth for his best IRL result of the year while Goodyear recovered well from his pit-stop to take fifth place. Dismore was the last man to complete the full 208 laps as both Lazier and Cheever ran out of fuel on the final lap. Lazier managed to coast across the line to take seventh while Cheever was classified ninth.

Sandwiching that pair was the impressive Shigeaki Hattori who, on his IRL debut, stayed with the leaders for most of the race and engaged in some top notch scrapping. Hattori, who was somewhat of an embarrassment in Champ Cars last year rose from 26th on the grid and was smooth and clean all day. Rounding out the top ten, still only one lap down was Airton Dare who was also involved in the titanic struggle for the lead at various points of the afternoon.

One driver who certainly wasn't involved in the battle for the lead was Greg Ray. The Team Menard driver's miserable year continued and he was eventually placed 15th, six laps down on the winner.

Sarah Fisher put in her best performance to date and came home in 12th place, four laps down.

Buddy Lazier still retains his championship lead although Scott Goodyear gained some ground on the Hemelgarn driver. Cheever is now third in the standings while early season leader Robbie Buhl lost more ground on his rivals when a number of problems dropped him to 18th at the finish.

The next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is at Pikes Peak Raceway on June 18th, it would be a good idea to tune in and watch it.