A five-time Rolex 24 at Daytona champion, race winner during CART’s zenith and a Trans-Am master, the recently-retired Scott Pruett looks back on 50 years of diversity and success.
His journey started on the family farm in hand built go-karts and ended on the high banks of Daytona in a racing program he brought into existence.
On his own terms, Scott Donald Pruett steered his way through a 50-year career that, upon its conclusion, had elevated the Northern Californian to elite status among America’s motor racing legends.
The face of SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA GTO racing in the 1980s, Pruett was the scariest weapon in the Ford/Mercury stable. Jack Roush’s golden boy, as hard headed as he was fast, had two gears to engage: if it wasn’t a storming drive to an uncontested victory, Pruett appeared to delight in trading paint on route to the podium. Either way, a statement was going to be made.
The leap from karts to IMSA came without the traditional progression through open-wheel racing, but that didn’t stop him handing over every last dollar he had to drive an Indy car for Dick Simon at Long Beach in 1988. The gamble – call it an exercise in self-belief – shattered his “sports car jockey” stereotype.
From that investment, a new chapter as a full-time IndyCar driver began the following year with Truesports. As a rookie, running the least competitive engine in CART, Pruett placed eighth in points. He was in good company; Mario Andretti was sixth, Danny Sullivan seventh, and Bobby Rahal ninth…
In 1998, his penultimate IndyCar season, and the last with a proper engine at his disposal, Pruett claimed sixth in the championship with Patrick Racing, behind Greg Moore’s rising star and ahead of former champ Michael Andretti.
NASCAR beckoned in 2000, and with that itch scratched, Pruett returned to Trans-Am, before heading to Grand-Am’s Rolex Series in 2004 with Chip Ganassi Racing. He quickly became the relentless benchmark in Daytona Prototypes, adding four more Rolex 24 at Daytona wins to his 1994 victory and taking five DP championships in a nine-season stretch.
As the wins, titles and accolades mounted up, the internal fight to prove himself seemed to defy time. Pruett’s last win – delivered in CGR’s Riley MkXXVI, of course – was at Circuit of The Americas in 2015, some 47 years into his racing journey.
With Daytona playing such a part in his career, Pruett chose the 2018 Rolex 24 as his final race before hanging up his helmet. The timing, the location – the 58-year-old Hall of Famer was exiting on his own terms…
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