Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

Scott Hargrove looks through the corner on his way to victory on the streets of St. Petersburg. (photo: John R. Hendrick)

Scott Hargrove looks through the corner on his way to victory on the streets of St. Petersburg. (photo: John R. Hendrick)

Scott Hargrove could feel the lactic acid building in his muscles. Despite the pain, he continued to pedal his bike and maintain a high cadence in order to stay on the wheel and in the draft of his older brother Robert — a UCI licensed cyclist who regularly achieves an epic suffer score on Strava.com.

With his legs and lungs working at maximum capacity and heart rate spiked, Hargrove continues to push and chase. He knows the effort will pay off. Fitness is key for a race car driver and Scott’s has never been better; thanks in part to his brother Robert, who after suffering a severe knee injury during a 2011 ski cross race with the British Columbia team (BCSC), turned to bikes as a way to rehab.

“He likes to push my limits,” Scott said, when asked about training with his brother Robert. “The only real chance I have to keep up with him is after he has already done double this distance of me earlier in the day. He’s an Iron Man in my eyes and has turned into a true athlete. That, for sure, drives me to follow in his foot steps.

“The motivation carries through into whatever I am doing,” Scott continued, “whether it be schoolwork, training, or racing.”

The morning after pursuing his brother 60 kilometers (nearly 40-miles) at a strenuous pace, Hargrove turns his focus to school work and stuffs his backpack full of books, his laptop, gym clothes, and lunch. After strapping the nearly 50-pound bundle to his back, he climbs onto his late-90s dark-blue Specialized carbon road bike, equipped with fenders and rides to class, 15 km one way.

Scott Hargrove (left) prepares for a training ride with Michael Valiante (center) and Remo Ruscitti.

Scott Hargrove (left) prepares for a training ride with Michael Valiante (center) and Remo Ruscitti.

“It’s been fun helping Scott get going with a road bike,” says Robert, who purchased and setup the bike for his younger brother. “Scott has been joining our Sunday team training rides and the two of us will typically do an extra loop before the team ride or get punchy on the climbs, racing each other up. It’s been enjoyable because by the time Sunday rolls around, I’m usually pretty fatigued from training/racing all week and Scott is so fit that he can challenge me from time to time.”

Chasing successful siblings is nothing new for the 18-year-old junior formula standout, who is the youngest of four children born to Jim and Darlene Hargrove. Scott’s sister Shannon, 19, is pursuing a career as a professional dancer and was recently inducted into the International Honor Society in Psychology while studying at the University of British Columbia. His brother Richard, 22, is working toward an electrical engineering degree at Simon Frasier University and Robert, 28, races bicycles and is actively involved in the Ride to Conquer Cancer — while managing the team eRace Cancer.

While his brothers and sister have served as exemplary role models, Scott’s real drive in racing comes from his father Jim, who is still an avid race car driver today, and his mom, who he describes as his No. 1 fan. Jim, who co-owns Analytic Systems with Darlene  — a company that designs and manufactures electronic power conversion equipment, has been passionate about motorsports since his college days at UBC, Vancouver. In the early 2000s, Jim obtained his road-racing license and soon thereafter stood atop the sports car podium at the 2003 Vancouver Molson Indy; a moment that served as a catalyst for Scott’s pursuit of a career in racing.

It runs in the family: Jim Hargrove, Scott's father, drives his '76 Civic hard into a corner during an SCCA GTL event.

It runs in the family: Jim Hargrove, Scott’s father, drives his ’76 Civic hard into a corner during an SCCA GTL event.

Five years after that special day, Scott was able to convince his parents to let him race. With a helmet that looked too large and a neck-brace so big it was described as inconceivable, 13-year-old Scott sat on the grid in a red and yellow Mach 1 chassis equipped with a Jr. Rotax engine. The dream had begun.

While fast, Hargrove’s true talent wasn’t exposed until after joining Vancouver-based Italian Motors, a powerhouse karting team led by Michael Valiante and his father Claudio. Michael, a highly-disciplined and focused racecar driver who has earned Daytona Prototype race wins in the Grand-Am Rolex Series, serves as team manager and driver coach for the IM squad. Despite his management duties, he is commonly found competing in karts alongside his team.

Scott began competing in the IKF Region 6 Gold Cup against teammates Remo Ruscitti, David Jurca, and Michael. He concluded his rookie year with the team by winning both the TaG ICC shifter and IAME senior championships. He accomplished the same feat his sophomore season. Additionally, he proved himself against the best in the sport in Las Vegas at the SKUSA SuperNationals. In 2011, he finished third in S2 — a semi-pro shifter kart class — after starting the race 18th. He was fast and people took notice.

“Scott is mechanically inclined which helps a lot,” says Valiante. “He understands how things work so he is able to have a better understanding of the car when explaining things to his engineer.”

When asked if Scott was gifted with natural talent or if he simply had the right work ethic, Valiante succinctly responded with one word: “Both.” The right mix of talent and work ethic is perhaps the perfect combination for a driver looking for a career in open-wheel racing. Valiante went on to say that pure talent is not enough these days. A statement that has become increasingly evident in recent years.

“Michael always works to keep me sharp as a driver and Claudio is always there improving me as a person,” says Hargrove, who actively races karts with the team. “Like Claudio likes to say, ‘I came to IM with a plastic bag of knowledge, and now I have a bursting suitcase full.'”

Scott Hargrove finished third in the SKUSA SuperNationals XV S2 division in 2011.
(photo: JuniorOpenWheelTalent.com)

At the end of the 2010 season, Hargrove — who was 15 at the time — attended a three-day racing program through the Skip Barber Racing School and applied for the Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shootout. It was a wise decision. He left the shootout with a scholarship big enough to fund a half-season in regional formula car competition. Utilizing the prize, he went on to secure a runner-up finish in the regional championship while earning Rookie of the Year honors for his performance.

That fall, Hargrove tested a USF2000 car in the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test with JDC MotorSports at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was near the top of the speed charts for much of the test. Working well with the Minnesota-based team, led by team principal John Church, Hargrove decided to sign with JDC for both the Winterfest and the National Championship for the 2012 season.

Hargrove earned a podium finish in just his fourth start in the Winterfest, but “bad luck” struck in St. Petersburg during the national championship where Hargrove was involved in two incidents. The ruinous results had a devastating impact causing the young Canadian to withdraw from both Indy and Mid-Ohio due to financial woes. Still, he rebounded to conclude the season with five-consecutive top-10 finishes, including a podium on the streets of Baltimore.

At the end of the season, Scott knew he had improved and obtained valuable experience, but the future was, perhaps for the first time in his burgeoning career, bleak and nebulous. The uncertainty didn’t last. Hargrove wouldn’t let it.

“At the end of the 2012 season, I went up to Dominic Cape [a co-owner of the championship winning team Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing] and said flat-out, ‘I want to test with you guys, when can we do so?'”

“In November I did a test with them,” he explained, “and I drove my heart out. Next thing I know I’m getting the call from them asking me to drive for them in the 2013 championship. It was really a dream come true and demonstrates that you have to put yourself out there in order to get noticed.”

Scott Hargrove waves to fans during the St. Pete parade. (photo: USF2000)

Scott Hargrove waves to fans during the St. Pete parade. (photo: USF2000)

Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Hargrove pedaled the white No. 38 USF2000 car to six-straight top-two finishes, including a win at Palm Beach International Raceway. The only driver to beat him? His teammate at CM-WTR: American Neil Alberico.

While Hargrove’s USF2000 Winterfest performance was impressive, his 2013 national championship bid has been nearly-perfect. Winning three of the season’s first four races (he finished second in his only non-win) has led to a 43-point advantage over Wyatt Gooden in the championship standings. He credits much of his success to his fitness and the team, but modestly says luck has played a role too.

“Physically I am as good as I’ve ever been,” he said. “I’ve prepared more than I ever have and I believe that is a large part of my success. I believe that while the overall speed doesn’t change much with fitness, the ability to be consistent does. I get out of the car these days and I feel like I could go and do the race another 10 times. The other difference, between the Winterfest and the National Championship, is just having more time to bond with the team. The more time I spend with them, the better they are able to interpret my feedback. And finally, another big difference is luck. I have had a tremendous amount of good luck, and my teammate Neil has had just the opposite. It is part of racing.”

It’s interesting that he earmarks consistency as one of his key traits this season. Valiante says consistency is Hargrove’s biggest strength. That attribute should serve him well as he continues his ascent of the Mazda Road to Indy driver development ladder — dreaming of an IndyCar ride.

One thing is certain: no matter how hard the climb gets, Hargrove will pedal onward.

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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