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Life’s Good For One Of America’s All-Time Greats

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 31 2010

Scott Pruett may be America's best sports car driver. (Photo courtesy of the Grand-Am Rolex Series)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

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 mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 31 2010
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Michael DeFontes says:

    He always was a great guy, nice as hell, and deserves it all. Best Regards to Scott!!!

  • Duane Berry says:

    I met Scott in McMinnville OR as he and his family were making the move to CA. I saw 2 legs sticking out from under an old Military Jeep in the antique store I was working in and went over to see if I could help, it was Scott checking out the transmission on the Jeep. I had no idea who he was or what he did for a living, but I liked him right off the bat. The owner of the shop did know who he was and was very excited to get some racing gear signed by Scott as part of the deal for the Jeep. I only had a short time to get to know Scott and his Family, but he is truly a nice guy with a great attitude and a wonderful family. I have followed him in Rolex since then and the guy you see on TV with the big smile is the guy I met.