IRL: Driver Ed to Indy Cars - Scott Harrington Dover Preview

DOVER, Del., July 26 - Marvin Stout will always consider Scott Harrington to be one of his star pupils. Stout was Harrington's high school driver-education teacher. Today Stout still teaches for a living but he's also ...

DOVER, Del., July 26 - Marvin Stout will always consider Scott Harrington to be one of his star pupils. Stout was Harrington's high school driver-education teacher. Today Stout still teaches for a living but he's also Harrington's spotter in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League series, which will hold its eighth race of the season this Sunday at Dover Downs International Speedway in Dover, Del. Harrington pilots his CertainTeed Dallara Olds #66 at speeds over 200 mph in nationally televised events as he competes in the Pep Boys IRL series, including the world's largest single-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500. On race day, high up in the grandstands in radio communication with Harrington and the CertainTeed pit crew is Stout, his eyes peeled, relaying information into his radio's microphone. The CertainTeed Dallara is a far cry from the dual-control Ford with yellow "Student Driver" decals on the doors and trunk lid that Harrington and Stout used when Harrington was a student at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind. "I might have been his driver-ed teacher, but I definitely didn't teach him to drive," says Stout, who also had Harrington as a pupil in advanced algebra and trigonometry classes. "He knew how to drive long before high school; his dad taught him on the farm," says Stout of Harrington, son of veteran sports car racer Gene Harrington, who owns the CertainTeed team. "I just set back and let Scott drive me around during class," admits Stout, who has been a teacher at Eastern for 27 years and will turn 50 on Wednesday. "Now and then we went running for parts during his hour." Stout has been involved in racing for over 30 years, primarily as a helper for various sprint car teams and drivers. "I never wanted to be in charge," he says. "I have done a little bit of everything over the years though. Last week I was helping Kevin Briscoe a little, and I've been on the crew for other sprint car drivers like Chuck Amati, Steve Butler and the late Rich Vogler. "But Scott is my most famous student," adds Stout, who was born and still lives in Salem, Ind. He grew up in Campbellsburg, Ind., and has never lived more than 20 miles from that town. When the Harringtons decided to form their own Pep Boys Indy Racing League team over the Christmas holidays, it was just assumed that Stout would be there to help. At the beginning of the season Stout spent race day in the pits. Among other things, his job was to provide Harrington with a drink during pit stops. But as the season progressed Stout was pressed into service as a spotter, a person who warns of accidents as they occur and tries to prevent them by letting the driver know where cars are on the track when they're close. "High; high," is a standard message from Stout to Harrington over the radio during a race. "OK; clear," Stout will report. He'll also immediately tell Harrington when and where a crash has occurred so that he can miss it. The information Stout provides is also crucial to crew chief Darrell Soppe, who uses it to plan pit stops and other race strategy. It's an important job, and it's even more vital at places like "The Monster Mile." On Sunday during the MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200, Harrington and his fellow drivers will whirl around that 1-mile oval with its 24-degrees of banking in about 20 seconds a lap. It's no place for the weak of heart or eyesight. "I really depend on Marvin, just like I depend on all of the members of the CertainTeed crew," says Harrington. "A good spotter can make all the difference in the world. Things happen really fast on a race track, and a spotter can actually save a driver's life as well as the race." The job demands concentration, and often drivers in other series or drivers without a ride will serve as spotters for their friends. Harrington did just that himself at numerous Pep Boys IRL races in previous years, before the CertainTeed team was born. Now he's one of the rising stars of the series, and is currently second in the point standings for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year award. Harrington suffered a broken leg and cracked ribs in a crash during practice at Texas Motor Speedway in June, but he hasn't slowed down one bit. He has removable braces on both legs and he uses crutches to maneuver himself close enough to his race car to clamber inside. Despite that he was as high as second in both of the last two races - at Pikes Peak International Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway - before late-race problems took him out of contention. Stout's role was even more crucial than usual at the last race, held Saturday night, July 17, at Atlanta. Almost at the drop of the green flag the support for Harrington's left-side mirror dropped down, rendering the mirror useless. With other cars inches away from him at speeds of over 200 mph and his own body battered and broken, Harrington had his hands full. "I can't see!" he yelled into his radio. "I can't see anything in my left-side mirror, and all you see in the right-side mirror is the wall. Where is he?" he demanded of Stout as another car approached him. It gave new meaning to the term "blind spot." "Either listen to Marvin or bring the car in and we'll fix the mirror," came the calm voice of Soppe, the team's distinguished veteran crew chief, over the radio. As crew chief for drivers like Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, Soppe has dealt with just about everything. Bringing the car into the pits immediately may have been the prudent thing to do, but Harrington wasn't about to lose that many laps without a good old "college try." He decided to listen to Marvin. With Stout constantly telling him the position of the cars around him, somehow they persevered until a four-car crash on lap 89 gave Harrington the opportunity to make repeated pit stops under yellow to replace the mirror's support without losing a lap. "Thanks, Marvin," a grateful Harrington said after the race. "You were really great!" "Just listen to your teacher," Stout replied with a smile.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Scott Harrington , Gene Harrington