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Pruett’s ‘Quite A Ride’ Is About To Come To An End

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 27 2018

Five-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett will take to the Daytona infield road course for one last time this weekend.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For 50 years Scott Pruett and racing have been synonymous, but when the checkered flag falls on this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona it will put a period on a championship career that has spanned four different forms of motorsports.

Since age 8, Pruett’s primary focus has been auto racing. First, it was karts; then sports cars, open wheel and stock cars. His racing resume shows 10 professional karting championships, two IMSA GTO, three SCCA Trans-Am and five Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Grand-Am titles. He’s been the overall winner in the Daytona 24-hour race five times, the overall winner in the 12-Hours of Sebring and a class victor in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

His accolades include sharing Indianapolis 500 rookie honors with Bernard Jourdain, the Road Racing Drivers Club Phil Hill Award and induction into the World Karting Association Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

“The good Lord has blessed me with this incredible career,” said Pruett, who will celebrate his 58th birthday on March 24. “I’m going out on my terms, which for any professional athlete is … something that you could only wish for.”

Various media members have constantly questioned Pruett about his retirement for a decade. He always answered by taking an annual inventory of himself: How did he feel, what’s it like and was he still getting the job done. Pruett elected to retire after this year’s Rolex 24 because it’s an “iconic event where I have so much success and it’s an iconic race track.”

“I love that track and I love that race,” Pruett continued. “It seemed like everything came together at the right time and it made sense. It just felt like the right time; the right moment. I think the 50-year mark was also a big moment for me. It was like, ‘What else do I have to do (in the sport)?’”

One might expect Pruett to cite the 1990 Indy Car pre-season testing crash at West Palm Beach, Fla., that seriously injured his legs as the most difficult time in his career. But Pruett, who during his recovery occasionally served as the color commentator on ESPN IndyCar telecasts, said that wasn’t the case.

“It was tough,” Pruett admitted. “I was in a wheelchair for three months, then on crutches for three months after that, back brace and leg braces and all this other stuff.  But I felt that if I could keep my head down and keep working, I’d get to that next step.

“What’s tougher is coming to the end of the season and not having a ride. What I mean by that is in ’91 I signed a three-year deal with True Sports and they were out of business at the end of ’92. Here one year into a three-year contract they’re out of business and I’m looking for a ride. So moments like that were certainly more difficult. It doesn’t maybe sound that way, but when you break everything and all you have to do is focus on your training and your recovery to get back into a race car (that’s easier).”

The personable Pruett doesn’t point to one moment in his career as the most satisfying, but rather making it 50 years in a sport that can be brutal on the emotions as well as the body.

“My family was a typical middle-class family struggling to make ends meet, supporting me in my go-kart racing.” Pruett said. “I didn’t have a father who raced or a name. I had to make it on my own terms. When I look back I have lived my life almost one year at a time because most of our contracts were one-year contracts. So the reality for any professional athlete knowing you’re as good as your last race or as good as your last season and being fortunate enough to have that next year contract for 50 years…so many great memories.”

Those memories include competing against many of the sport’s legendary drivers. A who’s who list that includes: A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Arie Luyendyk, Danny Sullivan, Rick Mears, Hurley Haywood, Derek Bell, Al Holbert, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Davey Allison, Al Unser Jr., Michael Andretti, Scott Dixon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.   

Pruett’s racing memories aren’t confined to a single room in his house. He also has items stored in multiple containers. In addition to photographs and trophies, he has driving suits, helmets, clippings, his 1995 Firestone Indy Car and 1994 championship Trans-Am Camaro.      

Stepping away from the racing grind will allow Pruett more time to spend with his family and the opportunity to “get on with the next chapter in my life after spending this incredible amount of time doing what I love.” Pruett quickly notes his first passion is his family and his second is racing.

Pruett and his wife, Judy, have three children and are children’s book authors. They also own Pruett Vineyards in Northern California. He has no desire to make the winery bigger, but rather to make the wines it produces better. On the automotive side, he has extended his business relationship with Lexus through 2020. He also will remain an ambassador for Rolex. But most of all Pruett is looking forward to taking a breath from auto racing’s demanding grind, because “it’s been quite a ride,” he said with a smile.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 27 2018
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