Harrington Assembles IRL Team In Just 25 Days But Feels Better-Prepared Than Ever
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 22 - If getting there is half the fun, Scott Harrington is having a blast. When the 35-year-old starts the Pep Boys Indy Racing League race at 1 p.m. Sunday at Walt Disney World Speedway, it will mark the culmination of one of the most amazing months of his life. It isn't that Harrington didn't think he'd be here; he's devoted his life to the pursuit of a career as a race car driver. But less than a month ago the Indianapolis resident, a native of Louisville, Ky., was hoping he'd be running in the IRL this year in a second car fielded by Nienhouse Motorsports and prepared by L-P Racing, not as the co-owner of a team that didn't even exist. Around Christmas it became apparent the arrangement with Nienhouse was not going to happen, so on Sunday, Dec. 27, he and his father Gene accepted the financial risks of assembling their own team and Harrington Motorsports was born. This Sunday afternoon, only 25 days later, Harrington will rev the Nissan Infiniti Indy V8 engine in his Dallara and take the green flag in the first IRL race of the year, the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200. The team still needs a primary sponsor, but the yellow-trimmed white No. 66 Dallara does have support from Invincible Sportswear, Abel Construction Co. and Vector Technologies, a computer and software firm in Indianapolis. The Harringtons have been involved in racing for years. Gene is in his fourth decade of racing, running competitively in IMSA and SCCA Trans Am and Can-Am for years, and he won the SCCA Central Division championship in showroom stock just last year. Scott started racing in motorcycles and switched to cars in 1984. But the task facing them since New Year's has been daunting. The Harringtons have had a long association with Larry Nash, co-owner of L-P Racing. Nash was the crew chief for Harrington's Formula Atlantic cars in the 1980s, and they were together when Scott won the 1992 Can-Am Pro Series championship. The two families have worked together various times since then and remain close. In December L-P Racing's driver, Sam Schmidt, moved to Treadway Racing to become the lead driver when Arie Luyendyk retires after this year's Indy 500 in May. Nienhouse Motorsports had joined forced with Galles Racing last year with Davey Hamilton behind the wheel, but that situation changed over the winter when Nienhouse split from Galles to join forces with L-P Racing and field a car for Eliseo Salazar. (Ironically, Harrington substituted for Salazar in the IRL race at Dover, Del., last July.) Almost immediately there were discussions of the Harringtons joining forces with the new Nienhouse/L-P Racing association to run a second car. That looked even more likely after L-P Racing serviced one of two Dallaras the Harringtons own during a successful testing session at Walt Disney World Speedway Dec. 7-8. "We waited and waited to see what would happen, but on the 27th of December the decision was made to form Harrington Motorsports and assemble a team on our own," Gene Harrington said. "On the 30th and 31st of December our two cars and equipment were transported from L-P's shop in Lebanon, Ind., to a race shop I had lined up at 703 South Girls School Road in Indianapolis, in the same building that houses EMCO Gears, and we got to work." The Harringtons had started to make inquiries about the availability of some personnel in December if the partnership didn't materialize, and on Monday, Jan. 4, work began on their two Dallaras in earnest in their new shop. "Two full-time mechanics started working on the cars that Monday, one of them being Steve Dunlap, our chief mechanic," the elder Harrington said. "Scott was in the shop too, twisting wrenches, trying to get everything ready, and we were both burning up the telephone lines." The team's transporter was leased from Team Scandia, which also loaned them the services of their engineer, Tim Whiting, for the Disney race. "We have four full-time people now, and we're very proud of them and the great part-time personnel we've assembled," Harrington added. "Since the 4th of January, our primary car was updated to the 1999 specs, which is no little task, and both cars were thoroughly gone over and made race-ready," Gene Harrington noted. "We put together a total pit and equipment package from scratch, and both cars were painted before the transporter left Indianapolis on Tuesday for Florida. "We're received many compliments already from officials and competitors here at Disney," he added Friday morning. "They can't believe we got everything done and made it here. We are under a tremendous financial burden as well as the time factor, but both Scott and I have this racing disease bad, and racers race." The team's primary Dallara is the same car that Harrington almost qualified for the 1998 Indy 500. He made a last-ditch attempt on Bubble Day, and his first lap of 217.923 mph would have put him in the field. The car's engine let go on the next lap, however, causing him to crash in turn one and ending his shot for 365 more days. The team's back-up car was purchased from D.B. Mann in October, and it's the same machine that Danny Drinan tried to qualify in at Indy last year. "Both cars have been completely disassembled, gone over carefully, and are painted and race-ready now," Gene Harrington noted. "One of them has the 1999 updates, and we'll update the second car as soon as we can." The team is using Firestone tires and Infiniti engines prepared by Ed Pink. Despite the time crunch, Scott Harrington actually feels better prepared for this event than he has been any other time he's been strapped into an Indy car, including his 1996 Indy 500 appearance, when he finished 15th. The difference is that he's had more days of testing behind him this time. He ran about 160 laps at Texas Motor Speedway in November in the ex-Drinan car, and he ran about 230 miles in the primary car at Disney in December, although that was without the '99 updates. "I've always had to just jump in and make the best of things," he noted. "I've lacked any kind of testing program for the last 10 years. We want to get the car comfortable at a pace where we don't jeopardize things, and then show people what we can do." Just by their presence, they've already shown the world what tenacity and determination can do. Now they want to show potential sponsors what advertising on their car can do, too. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at noon on Saturday. ABC will televise the race on a one-hour-delay basis starting at 2 p.m. (EST) Sunday. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 1 p.m. Sunday, with a pre-race show starting at 12:30 p.m. A qualifying-highlights show will be broadcast on the IMS Radio Network at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.