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Pruett: The 24 Is Still Cool At 52

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 26 2013

Scott Pruett still enjoying his days and nights in sports cars.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In 1984 Scott Pruett was a rookie in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Now, at age 52, the pole winner for this year’s around-the-clock event still “absolutely loves” competing in the race that kicks off the new motorsports season.

“Ever since I can remember, even as a kid, being part of the Rolex 24 was always incredible,” the California native said about the race scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday start. “And when you look globally, you’ve got guys coming over from Europe and Asia, Formula One drivers and Indy Car drivers, NASCAR drivers, sports car drivers globally; everybody wants to be a part of the Rolex 24 because that’s the kickoff for all of motorsports. It always is, always has been. Everyone wants to be a part of it. When you get down there and you see that caliber of drivers in one area it’s pretty cool.”

Pruett, who captured his third consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series championship last year driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is seeking a record-tying fifth overall victory in this year’s endurance sports car race. Hurley Haywood is the current record holder in the event that signals the beginning of Speedweeks. The congenial Pruett secured his third consecutive Rolex 24 victory in 2008 and his fourth in 2011.

Ganassi’s two-car team failed to secure a win in last year’s event, but the organization is still considered one that must be defeated for the overall victory.

“That’s one of the things for me that is always exciting is when we show up there we know we have a good chance for that victory,” Pruett said the day before capturing the pole in his Daytona Prototype BMW. “Is there a target on our back? Probably, but I think it’s also the respect we’ve gained for all of our achievements.”

Achievements during a 24-hour race mean not only defeating the elements, but conquering a variety of drivers as well as mechanical issues.

“I like the fact you get so many things happening in one race,” said Memo Rojas, one of Pruett’s co-drivers. “It’s like mini championships in one race. It could be dry, it could be wet. There are so many changes in the driver lineup. You can go two laps down, three laps down and make them back up. And then at the end it ends up being a sprint race because most of these races the last few years they’re so close, five cars on the lead lap racing for the win. It’s a 24-hour sprint race.”

Scott Pruett initially obtained sports car racing fame in the 1980s while driving a GTO Mustang for Jack Roush in IMSA, the professional sports car racing series founded by John Bishop. However, after Bishop retired, two professional sports car racing sanctioning bodies evolved in the United States – the America Le Mans and the Grand-Am series. Last year it was announced the two would merge beginning in 2014.

Pruett believes developing a rules package for sports car racing’s new governing body will be the most difficult task faced by the organizers.

“There will be some heartburn with it,” Pruett said, “trying to bring those two groups together, figure out the right packages. I know NASCAR has been working very hard within ALMS and Grand-Am trying to figure out the rules package. But we probably won’t even know that rules package until mid-season and then even when we get started next year it’s going to be continual fine tuning because there’s places that I see difficult. If you look at Daytona as a race track and you look at Lime Rock they are at different ends of the spectrum. When you’re trying to bring different levels of cars together with rules it’s always a challenge.”

Still, Pruett believes the merger is an “incredible thing; a good thing.”

“The good Lord has blessed me with this incredible career of racing sports cars for a lot of years and having a lot of success,” Pruett said. “So with that there needs to be one series. It will be good for manufacturers and drivers across the board.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 26 2013
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