Life’s Good For One Of America’s All-Time Greats
By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
Scott Pruett may be the most under-appreciated driver in American racing.
Not that it bothers him a whole lot.
“I’m doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do since I was eight years old, racing,’’ Pruett said during an interview last year at Daytona. “I still get a real rush from driving a race car.’’
So do the fans who watch him race.
On Saturday in Montreal, Pruett teamed with Memo Rojas to win their record-setting eighth race of the season and their second straight Grand Am Rolex Daytona Prototype championship.
“Here I am; I turned 50 this year; it’s been crazy,” Pruett said after the race on Speed TV. “We had another record season. It’s so great working for Chip Ganassi and the whole organization. It’s all about the winning, and, I tell you, it couldn’t be any sweeter.”
It is the 10th American sports car championship for the good guy from California.
The first two came in 1986 in the IMSA GT Endurance series in IMSA GTO. He added another GTO championship in 1988. Since then, Pruett has added titles in Trans-Am in 1987, 1994 and 2003 and Grand-Am in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010.
But that’s only part of the story.
Pruett is also one of the most versatile race drivers in American motoring history.
He began racing go-karts at 8 years old and went o to win 10 professional karting championships before he turned 20.
When he moved up to sports cars in the ’80s, Pruett quickly established himself as a star. Then he jumped into the CART series and won rookie of the year honors at the Indianapolis 500 in 1989, sharing that title with Bernard Jourdain.
Despite losing almost four seasons after being seriously injured in a crash during preseason testing in 1990, Pruett wound up winning two races and earning 15 podium finishes in CART. Oh yeah, during his recuperation in 1994, he won his first Trans-Am title and helped Firestone prepare for a return to American open-wheel racing by testing the tires for Pat Patrick’s re-formed team.
Then Pruett took a shot at NASCAR with team owner Cal Wells III, winding up with just one top-10 and finishing 37th in the points.
“I still think we were moving in the right direction, but sometimes things just don’t work out the way you’d like them to,’’ Pruett said.
He then moved back to sports car racing and, well, the rest is history – a history that is still being written by Pruett.
But racing isn’t his only passion.
Pruett and wife Judy have co-written four successful children’s books, all with racing themes, and Pruett, whose family has been farmers for five generations, has stayed close to the earth himself by becoming a winemaker.
He owns a three-acre patch of grapevines in Auburn, Calif., where, with the help of longtime friend and former racer Randy Lewis, Pruett Vineyards is well on its way.
“Life is good,’’ Pruett said during a recent conversation. “I’m still one of the guys to beat on the racetrack, I’ve got a great family and I’m getting to live out what some people would call a fantasy.’’
And that fantasy may go on for quite a while.
“I told Judy when we first got married that I’d probably retire from racing at 40,’’ he said. “But, here I am at 50 and still at the top of my game. The only difference is that now everything hurts when I get up in the morning. But that’s OK. It’s worth it.’’
– Mike Harris can be reached at email@example.com Comments