SCOTT HARNER joined A.J. Foyt Racing in February 2019 after a 25-year tenure with Chip Ganassi Racing. A Hoosier born in Lafayette, Harner earned his Technical Degree at Ivy Tech. As the vice-president of operations, Harner has been charged with streamlining the running of the two shops which are based in Waller, Texas (team headquarters) and the satellite shop in Indianapolis. He is also the race strategist on the No. 14 Chevrolet, working with rookie Dalton Kellett and veterans Tony Kanaan and now Sebastien Bourdais. We asked him a few questions…
Q: What was the first race you went to?
SH: “First race was a Super Vee race in Detroit in 1985 which was with F1 cars, and I believe my first Indy car race was at Phoenix the same year. My first year at the Speedway was 1987 with RPM Motorsports and driver Ed Pimm.”
Q: Was your family involved in racing?
SH: “My family really were not huge fans, we did always listen to the 500 on Memorial Day, either at the lake or cooking out. My best friend in high school was Tim Halsmer, whose older brother Pete drove Indy cars for years, and that was my first introduction to the Speedway in the early 80’s. We would skip school when we could and come down and watch practice. The Super Vee team that Pete drove for before he drove Indy cars, used the Halsmer family airport, just outside Lafayette, as their summer base, renting some hanger space to service the cars between races. Tim would work with them during the summer and I would help when I could after getting off of my normal job. At the end of the summer I was offered a job to move to California and work full time for the team. After racing Super Vee’s for a few seasons with a few different teams on the west coast, I decided I wanted to get back to Indy and had an opportunity to work for John Menard’s Buick IndyCar program and jumped at the chance to get back closer to home.”
Q: Did you think you would have a career in INDYCAR racing? Was it a goal for you?
SH: “In the beginning, when you’re 19 years old, I just knew I wanted to somehow be a part of this but wasn’t sure how it would all work out, so I just stayed with it, met some great people along the way that have helped me learn, grow and been lucky enough to have a great career that I really don’t consider work.”
Harner gives a hug to close friend Tony Kanaan prior to his announced “last race” at Gateway this year.
Q: Why did you want to come to AJ Foyt Racing? Have you achieved the goals you set for yourself when you joined this team?
SH: “When I first had the opportunity to sit down with Larry and see his desire to make the organization better and move things forward, I felt like I could help him do that. We have a ways to go, but I believe we have made some small gains and are working hard to get the pieces in place so A.J. can see his team perform the way I know he wants it to.”
Q: How do you handle having the team operate out of two different locations?
SH: “Operating the organization from two locations makes some things more difficult, but we manage through that working at it from both ends.”
Q: How will the addition of Sebastien Bourdais to the team help as you finish out the season?
SH: “As with everything else in 2020, our plan for the program was derailed at St Pete. When we couldn’t have Seb in the car, with his experience, to help us validate the off season work and see where we truly were with the engineering changes made in the off season. We have shown a few signs of improvement, but have lacked any real consistency to make us feel we are on the right track. Hopefully between the 2 races this weekend and St Pete to finish the season, we will have a good idea where we need to focus this upcoming short off season, so 2021 can be a real turn around for everyone here at AJ Foyt Racing.”
Q: A normal INDYCAR season would have been over by now. What do you expect the differences and challenges with racing in Indianapolis in October?
SH: “Especially with the forecast, it’s definitely going to be the cooler temps. They are forecasting highs in the 50’s so tire temps will for sure be an issue and make keeping temps up will be a must.”
Q: Back to three teams for this weekend’s doubleheader – what’s involved in hiring a third crew?
SH: “Deciding to run a third car is always a challenge, especially this year with all of motorsports trying to run every weekend, it makes getting the personnel together that much harder. We have been lucky that a few of the guys from our third Indy 500 group were available and have them back in place. We recruited a few new guys to our program that have worked with people we know and trust, and I believe that they will do a great job for Dalton.”
Q: Some people have asked about a reverse layout for the course to change things up. Your thoughts??
SH: “The reverse course idea would take some thought with the safety side depending on run-off areas etc., but anytime you can run at IMS is a good weekend!!”
Q: How do you spend your spare time?
SH: “My wife Christina and I adopt rescue cats. We currently have three: ‘Waylon Jennings’, ‘Dixon’ and our newest addition is a kitten named ‘Cecil’. I also like to ride my Harley.”
Waylon is one of three rescue cats adopted by the Harners.
Sebastien Bourdais makes his AJ Foyt Racing debut in competition this weekend driving the No. 14 Chevrolet. Bourdais tested for the team in February at the INDYCAR Open Test at Circuit of the Americas and in a private test at Sebring.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s time finally to
get that 2020 INDYCAR season started for us. It’s been a long time coming but really happy to finally get this show on the road and see what we’ve got. Obviously, there was a lot of anticipation at the beginning of the year and many months have gone by and many races, so we’re not taking it the easy way by getting in the seat at the tail end of the season. There’s a lot of things to learn for me with the team, the team to validate a few things that they think they need answers on for this season and, more importantly, the next. I’m very much looking forward to the Indy GP. It’s a track that I’ve had good success on and very much enjoyed the layout, but it’s not going to be easy because we’re jumping straight into the thick of it: one practice, then qualify, race, qualify, race. Hopefully we hit the ground running with a happy setup and can have a good weekend. If that’s not the case, we’ll dig deep and learn a few things and see what we get results-wise.”
DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “It’s come down
to the last race of the season (for me anyway)! This first year in IndyCar has been fast-paced and full of unknowns, so I am looking forward to returning to a track that I have experience at. Compared to the heat of July, the cooler temps this weekend will be refreshing. Who knows? It might even get a little chilly in the car! We made good strides at Mid-Ohio and the car had better pace than our results showed. If we continue on that path and put everything together, we will have a good shot at a solid finish for the #41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevy. That’s the approach to this event. I’m also looking forward to the chance to work with Sebastien. His experience and insight will be a great asset to the program.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “Anytime you get to race at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s a good time! And getting both a doubleheader on the Indianapolis road course plus the fall weather that has descended on Indy means that it will live up to its Harvest Grand Prix name. Partnering with both Dalton Kellett and Sebastien Bourdais means we’re all focused on a great result for AJ Foyt Racing this weekend.”
Past Performance: In past Indy Grands Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, Bourdais’s best start is third (2018) and his best finish is fourth which he did three times (2014, 2015, 2018). Kimball’s best start is second (2016) and his best finish is fifth which he did in three straight races (2014-16). Kellett’s only start in the GP was his first NTT INDYCAR Series start in 2020 when he started 26th and finished 21st.
Last Race: At Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Kellett and Kimball fared slightly better in the second race of the doubleheader. Kimball placed 19th after starting 23rd and Kellett finished 21st after starting 20th.
The Harvest Grand Prix Race 1 will be broadcast live on the USA Network starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 2. Race 2 will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 3. The races will also be available on NBC Sports Gold and INDYCAR Radio.