IRL: Scott Harrington Atlanta Race Report

HAMPTON, Ga., July 17 - It was a hot, steamy night in Georgia for Scott Harrington and the CertainTeed Building Products Dallara Aurora No. 66 Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After rebounding from numerous hardships...

HAMPTON, Ga., July 17 - It was a hot, steamy night in Georgia for Scott Harrington and the CertainTeed Building Products Dallara Aurora No. 66 Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After rebounding from numerous hardships throughout most of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500, Harrington had the CertainTeed car up to second place with only 42 laps to go in the 208-lap race. The car's engine had been threatening to stall during pit stops all night, however, and when Harrington was leaving pit road on his last pit stop it faltered and he spun in the grass near turn one. After the car was towed back to the pits Harrington was able to rejoin the field and finish the race, but he ended up four laps down to winner Scott Sharp in 15th position. The outcome belies the incredible performance Harrington recorded here. He started 12th but he dropped back to 15th at the start because his left-side mirror was drooping down, forcing him to dice inches away from his fellow competitors rather blindly at speeds over 200 mph. He had to depend on radio contact from his spotter, Marvin Stout, to judge how close he was to his fellow competitors, which was nerve-wracking for the young driver. Harrington, who is still suffering from a broken right leg, cracked ribs and torn ligaments from a crash at Texas Motor Speedway last month, was also dealing with a pushing race car. Despite this he was able to not only keep the car off the wall, but he was running at approximately the same speeds as all but the top three cars. The CertainTeed team was about to make a pit stop under green to replace the mirror when there was a big crash between turns one and two involving Ronnie Johncox, Jeff Ward, Steve Knapp and Stephan Gregoire. Being able to pit under yellow instead of green to replace the mirror seemed like a stroke of good luck for the CertainTeed crew and it was indeed a blessing, but the situation was still stressful because the car was beginning to run out of fuel and Harrington feared he'd flat-spotted his tires when he ran through some of the debris from the accident. He dodged those two bullets, however, as he didn't run out of fuel and his Firestones were still in good shape. So, after numerous visits to the pits to replace the mirror, get fuel and new tires and make a chassis adjustment, Harrington was in 18th place, one lap down, when the green waved again on lap 106. After rebounding from all those adversities, Harrington finally had a car under him. As Pep Boys Indy Racing League fans know by now, that means it was time to watch him come up through the field. He didn't disappoint them, and No. 66 began to march up the scoring pylon. When the winner at Pikes Peak, Greg Ray, pitted unexpectedly and two other drivers who were dicing for the lead (Sam Schmidt and Buddy Lazier) crashed, Harrington found himself in 13th spot with 75 laps to go. He was on the same pit schedule as Sharp, and with 61 laps left Harrington had muscled the CertainTeed car up to eighth spot. Some of the leaders then pitted and the race looked like it might end up to be a battle between three Scotts - Sharp, Goodyear and Harrington - with Robby Unser and Jaques Lazier thrown in for good measure. Harrington was running third when crew chief Darrell Soppe radioed for him to make his final pit stop, but he was actually second when he came in because Goodyear pitted right before him. The pit stop went beautifully and Harrington beat Goodyear out of the pits, but he couldn't get the car to shift as it went back out and he spun at the exit of pit road on lap 166. The car was undamaged and even the tires were in good shape, but the team went down several laps while the car was towed back into the pits. When the green waved again on lap 169 Harrington was back in 17th place, four laps down. Jack Miller brought out the sixth and final yellow when he blew an engine and spun in his own oil, and when the race ended under yellow for Jaques Lazier's spin, Harrington was in 15th place in the 27-car field. "We had a great race car; we were as fast as anyone," Harrington said. "We made about 15 pit stops tonight; I guarantee you we made more pit stops than anyone out there. We wasted a lot of time trying to fix our left-side mirror, and then we ended up killing the clutch and the gearbox trying to get out of the pits. It's just really disappointing." Harrington thanked Brayton Engineering for the loan of the engine his team used here. The timing chain broke on the CertainTeed car during the "happy hour" practice session Friday night, and they wouldn't have been able to compete in the race without the engine builder's assistance. There were 10 different leaders in the race, a season high. Sharp was the fifth different winner in the six IRL events held so far this year. The CertainTeed team is now 23rd in the overall point standings and Harrington is 22nd. Unofficially Harrington is still second in the battle for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year point standings. The next Pep Boys IRL race will be the Mid-Atlantic 200 on Aug. 1 at Dover Downs International Speedway in Dover, Del.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Jaques Lazier  , Sam Schmidt , Steve Knapp , Scott Harrington , Ronnie Johncox , Jack Miller