Crew Chief for Andretti Autosport Talks Life in the Fast Lane
Writer: Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography provided by Christopher Owens & Denny Scott
“All I’ve ever known was racing,” says Scott Marks, a Hendricks County resident who began working on cars the moment he was old enough to drive one. Though he’s never had an interest in getting behind the wheel of a racecar, he loves getting his hands dirty beneath the hood.
Marks is a wife’s dream come true as he gladly tackles all home improvement projects. He’s even helped build houses during his downtime.
“I like working with my hands,” says Marks, noting that he could never be happy in a job that required him to sit all day long. “I enjoy being outdoors. I also like tackling different stuff every day so I don’t get bored.”
When he was still in school, on weekends he worked for a team called R&K Racing, which was like an old Indy Lights team. He traveled with them on weekends and began to get his name out there, then started applying for teams. In 1994, he moved to Indianapolis. Through the years, he’s worked with some big names, including Tony Stewart, with whom he won a championship in 1997.
“We still talk sometimes. We like to rib each other,” Marks says. “He’s a good dude.”
When Marks first got into racing, it was not unusual for guys to move around teams a good bit.
“Some would go back and forth between IndyCar and Champ Car,” Marks says. “Not me, though. I tend to stay with a team until the door is shut.”
For the past 12 years, a loyal Marks has worked with Andretti Autosport, a racing team owned by Michael Andretti that competes in the IndyCar Series, Indy Lights, the Global RallyCross Championship and the FIA Formula E Championship.
Andretti Autosport has won the Indianapolis 500 five times (2005, 2007, 2014, 2016, 2017) and the IndyCar Series championship four times (2004, 2005, 2007, 2012). The team has won the Indy Lights championship in 2008 and 2009. This marks his third year as a full-time crew chief. He was with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2016 and with Alex Rossi since 2017.
“It’s a pretty big operation,” Marks says. “We have two GRC cars, four Indy Light cars and four Indycars. Then we’re running six cars at the Speedway, plus Jarett Andretti runs a Sprint car, so we have a lot going on.”
In addition, they have a Formula E team (a class of auto racing that uses only electric-powered cars) that travels everywhere. Marks, however, travels with the IndyCar side. Marks’ team races every other weekend. During off-season, they do a lot of maintenance on cars, pit equipment, tracks and support vehicles.
“We’re gone quite a bit because if we’re not racing, we’re testing,” Marks says. They often head to Florida for testing simply because the climate is better.
The team does plenty of pitstop practice so the manager can determine who performs best in which position. In seven or eight seconds, the team has to change four tires, do the wing adjustment and pump 18 gallons of fuel into the car.
“You can win or lose a race in a pit stop so you need to put the best guys in each position,” Marks says.
“We try to get young, healthy guys to do the right rear tire — the hardest position,” says Marks, whose responsibilities as a crew chief include working with the team’s engineers. They provide him with a set-up sheet that includes height numbers, wing angles and more.
“It’s my job to be sure the set-ups are correct,” says Marks, who oversees six guys. “Basically, I need to make sure the car runs the distance of the race without falling apart.”
On a typical race weekend, Marks and his crew arrive three hours prior to the first session.
“People assume you just put tires on a car and go run, but there are all sorts of things we have to do,” Marks says. For instance, after they run, the team writes down numbers to give to the engineers. In addition, every weekend the crew takes apart the whole car to ensure nothing is breaking.
Though Marks works crazy hours (an average workday on the road lasts 12-14 hours), for him it beats a 9-to-5 job.
“I just feel lucky to be on the racetrack so much,” Marks says. In fact, he finds himself there even in his free time.
“My 15-year-old daughter races, plus I have friends who do drag racing, so it’s kind of crazy how much time I spend in this world,” says Marks, who has met celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and David Letterman at the racetrack.
Not surprisingly, Marks’ most exciting on-the-job memory has to do with winning the Indy 500.
“If you ask anybody in the series what race they want to win, it’s the 500 because it’s the biggest one in the world,” Marks says.
With success comes sacrifice, and since summer is racing’s busy season, unfortunately, Marks gets limited vacation time with his wife Nikki and their children Makala and Ashley.
“I’ve missed a lot of trips and weddings,” Marks says. The family does, however, make it to Raccoon Lake four or five times a year to zoom around on their 23-ft. Baja.
The planets aligned when Marks and his wife conceived their youngest daughter, whose birthday is May 10. Born on Pole Day 2002, Makala entered the world in record time. No surprise there.