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Scott Pruett






Roseville, CA







Scott Pruett

By David Phillips

Scott Pruett is the most accomplished “all ‘rounder” of his generation of race drivers. Full stop.

His record of professional championships and race wins stretches from IMSA to SCCA and WEC, IndyCars to IROC and would include NASCAR as well, but for a late race bump ’n run from erstwhile teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. His prowess as a test driver was instrumental in Firestone tires’ return to racing and he would go on to mentor a variety of emerging, established and even champion drivers in the art and science of racing.

That much of Pruett’s success came in the wake of an accident that broke nearly every bone south of his rib cage is, in the words of the most successful team owner of his generation, “Worthy of the Hall of Fame alone.”

For all his achievements, Pruett is best known for his peerless IMSA record, one that includes nine championships and 60 wins spanning four decades of competition. While he and Hurley Haywood stand together as the only drivers to score five outright victories in the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona, Pruett also scored five class wins in the event, bringing his total haul of Rolex Daytona victories to an even 10.

The first act in Pruett’s IMSA career saw him team with Roush Racing to capture a pair of IMSA GTO titles, bracketing the first of his three SCCA Tran-Am crowns, in the late 1980s. Subsequently, he focused on Indy car racing earning Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors and scoring several podium finishes before suffering horrible lower extremity injuries when the brakes on his Indy car failed during a test session. Astonishingly, Pruett won his very first race following a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation. And not just any race, but the ’91 IROC season opener at Daytona International Speedway against a Who’s Who of drivers.

Step by step, Pruett worked his way back into the front ranks of Indy car racing, spending the whole of ’93 logging tens of thousands of miles, testing tens of thousands of tires in preparation for Firestone’s return to Indy car competition following a 20-year hiatus. After notching winning five poles and two victories in the mid-1990s, Pruett averaged more than 235 mph at California Speedway to win the pole position in his final IndyCar race.

Next, he turned to NASCAR before embarking on the second act of his IMSA career. And what an act it was. Driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS), Pruett scored more than three dozen wins in Daytona Prototypes. With Pruett at the helm, CGRFS not only won five championships, they never placed outside the top three in points between ’04 and ’14. Nor was Pruett’s sports car success limited to North America, witness a GTS class win for Corvette Racing with Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001.

“Lots of people know Scott as the smiling guy who always said ‘Hi to the family back home’ during television interviews,” Ganassi says. “But make no mistake, he really worked at his craft throughout his career. He worked hard to get the cars to his liking, always talking with the engineers . . . he was a machine. Tying Hurley (Haywood) for the most Rolex 24 Hour wins was special for him and our whole organization.”

One of the most remarkable facets of Pruett’s career with CGRFS is that his achieved all that success with an ever-changing cast of co-drivers including Max Papis, Luis Diaz, Memo Rojas and Joey Hand, along with the likes of Dario Franchitti, Salvador Duran, Graham Rahal and Montoya at the Rolex 24. Small wonder that, after Pruett hung up his driving boots, Ganassi tapped him to serve as Jimmie Johnson’s coach/strategist when the seven-time NASCAR champion tried his hand at IndyCar racing.

“Scott’s leadership in and out of the car made the team and his teammates better,” Ganassi says. “He was like a professional teacher who showed a lot of his co-drivers how to race. Think of all the drivers he won races with for us. Some of them are winning races today because of what they learned from Scott.”

Thus, Pruett’s impact on IMSA extends well beyond his championships, race wins and membership in the inaugural class of the IMSA Hall of Fame. Indeed, given that some of his “protégés” are likely destined to join him in that Hall of Fame, Scott Pruett figures to be playing a role in IMSA for many years to come.

Scott Pruett