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Scott Wimmer Shifts Into Survival Mode

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 9 2009

Scott Wimmer keeps on trackin' in the Nationwide Series. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Scott Wimmer keeps on trackin' in the Nationwide Series. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Fame and good fortune can be fleeting things, especially in racing. Scott Wimmer knows all about that. He’s shown flashes of brilliance behind the wheel in NASCAR’s top divisions, but he can’t seem to capitalize on them.

It’s been that way for years. In the fall of 2000, Wimmer came to Atlanta Motor Speedway to run the ARCA race. When it was rained out, his crew pushed the car over to the Sprint Cup garage and he made the show, one in which 13 drivers failed to qualify.

In that race, he drove to the front and led nine laps early before fading at the end.

In the fall of 2002, he was the talk of the Nationwide (then Busch) Series as he won four races down the stretch including the final two en route to a third-place finish in points.

In his official rookie season in Cup, he finished third in the season opening Daytona 500, but that didn’t seem to advance his career. A DUI charge later that month was no help, and he finished in the top 10 just one more time.

By the end of 2006, his days as a full-time Cup driver had come to an end. For the past two years he ran a partial Nationwide Series for Richard Childress Racing. Last year started off strong for him with a pole at Bristol in his second start and a win at Nashville Superspeedway in his third, which was the sixth race of the season.

This year, he returns to Nashville as the defending race champion but with an upstart team fielded by journeyman owner Curtis Key. He’s managed to qualify for three races this year, including Daytona, and has missed two – California and Texas. But he does have an 11th-place finish at Las Vegas to smile about.

He also can look ahead with enthusiasm to the race at Darlington on May 8, the first of six races this year in which he’ll drive the No. 5 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick.

Wimmer said the ups and downs of the sport make for some uneasy times.

“It’s a real struggle,” he said. “A lot of times you just question what you’re doing, what your role is in the sport and how far you’re going to keep going. 

“But I’m fortunate I’ve been through situations20like this before where you’re maybe not with the most competitive team, but if you keep building and working hard you can eventually get that team [stronger] or another team to look at you and say, ‘well, he maybe deserves another shot.’”

He said that he’s not given up on getting back to the Sprint Cup circuit, and he has time. He’s just 33 years old.

“I’m still looking at Cup,” he said. “I’d like to start running full-time again, and I think the Nationwide Series is a great place for me to do that.. maybe look at just starting to get back into Cup racing on a four- or five-race basis, but it’s really tough right now.”

 For now, he feels fortunate to be racing anywhere.

 “This winter was a hard off-season for me,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do or  where I was going to go.  We’re fortunate that JR Motorsports put some races together for me, and then Mr. Key came along and wanted me to help him st art this team up, too.”

Wimmer said that if he never advances past the Nationwide Series again, he believes he can still build a good career and develop a fan base much like Jack Ingram, Tommy Ellis, Tommy Houston and Sam Ard did in the days before Cup drivers and teams began to dominate the second-tier series. 

 “I think the biggest thing is we need to go out and beat the guys that are winning right now, go out and beat Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer,” Wimmer said. “Back when those guys [like Ingram and Ard] were racing, they were beating Dale Earnhardt, and Bobby Allison.”

 But today, the moonlighting Cup drivers also have to best technology, because they can transfer it from their Cup efforts. 

 “It’s hard to beat those guys,” Wimmer said. “Hopefully in the near future here we can start doing that.  And I think it would start building some identity back in the sport. When I got in it, it was Jeff Green, and Jason Keller, and Todd Bodine was running full seasons back then, and those guys were the name of the sport. 

“I’d like to see it get back to there where these [Nationwide regulars], this is what they run and this is their series.” 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 9 2009
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