EXCLUSIVE: We Catch Up with Ganassi Racing's Scott Pruett


By Sam Tickell

Pruett has won 33 races in Grand Am, and over 60 sportscar wins. Here he celebrates with long time codriver, Memo Rojas

In late October 2010 we were able to catch up with a legend of motorsport - Scott Pruett. The man has been involved in the sport for about thirty years, winning IMSA GTO titles in the 1980 - two to be precise in 1986 and 1988 with Roush Racing. He has won three Trans Am Championships (1987, 1994, 2003), three Grand Am Championships with Ganassi (2004, 2008, 2010), three 24 Hours of Daytona wins (1994, 2007, 2008), class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2001), won two CART races (Michigan 500 in 1995 and Surfers Paradise in 1997), Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1989 and has achieved top 10 finishes in NASCAR.

He was racing at the Gold Coast 600 alongside Nathan Pretty in a Lucas Dumbrell Racing Holden. The weekend was very challenging for Scott as Pretty constantly stuffed the car into the walls, meaning Scott got very little track time and the car was bent. Reports said that he was considering 'starting and parking' but he did not. Beyond that, he drove what was a pig of a car (not tracking properly, bad brakes to name just 2) with glass in his eye after his windscreen was smashed at the start of race 2. A gallant effort.

Scott acknowledges his place in the sport and his fortune in getting there. It was a pleasure to interview him and despite the weekend he was having, he was open and forthcoming with his responses. We did get cut short a little in the interview, and we didn't get to cover his off-track exploits. He has developed a passion for wines and runs his own winery in Auburn, California and with his wife Judy, runs a childrens publishing company - Word Weaver. Photos of his vineyard and home can be seen >here. and >here.

We hope you have enjoyed reading the interviews as much as we have had bringing them to you.

Hi Scott, thanks for joining me. Your team seemed to have trouble this weekend with crashes, can you tell us how it is going for you? [ed note: Scott’s co-driver, Nathan Pretty crashed the car heavily within four laps in P1, missed P2, crashed on the out lap of P3. Scott barely got any track time and thought of starting-and-parking. He did not do this and in the Sunday race, Scott’s windscreen smashed and he drove his stint with glass in his eye – an amazing performance in trying conditions.]

Um, [laughs] kinda off to a slow start. Unfortunately the car got into the wall right out of the box in the first session so we missed the second session and half of the third session. We kinda got out there at the end of the third and start of fourth. So we are behind. We will try to catch up wherever we can – that is all we can do.

How does it compare drive one of these when compared to a Daytona Prototype or otherwise?

It is a lot different. Driving an Indycar is a lot different – the driving style mainly, how they turn, how they brake. They are different even to the Rolex cars and the Nationwide and/or Cup too. They are kind of a beast of their own, a different style, how they do things and it is certainly something you need to get used to.

You had a fantastic season with the Ganassi Rolex team in 2010, can you tell us a bit about that and working with the Ganassi organisation?

The season was phenomenal. At the end of 03 for the 04 season we have won the Championship and if we haven’t won we have finished second. Our race wins – we have won 31 or 32 which is a record. Laps led is a record and everything we have done has been pretty phenomenal. It all starts at the stop – it all starts with Chip. You look at the Ganassi organization in 2010 – you have the Daytona 500 win, the Indy 500 win, Brickyard 400, Indycar Championship, Rolex Championship – wow! – that is a lot to achieve in one year.

Pruett has had resounding success for Ganassi Racing in Grand Am. Racing in 2006 (left) and 2010 (right) Click for higher res

You lost the Daytona 24 due to a…a circumstance

[laughs] Yes it was just a circumstance in the end.

Indeed! But you ended up winning 7 or 8 for the season, in a competition as tough as Grand Am, how does the feat fair in your mind?

You know that will be hard to top without a doubt. We were very fortunate that we were able to have that kind of success this year as Grand Am is tough. You know we didn’t have the fastest car and a lot of the races were tough. We certainly didn’t have the fastest car but we were the smartest racers. Sometimes we had a second or third placed car and we would take it to victory lane. Those are the kind of seasons that are freak seasons and they don’t come about very often.

Was it hard to see the Daytona 24 Hours slip away as it did?

Yeah – I mean over the last four years, we have completed every lap of that race. We have won it twice, we have finished second twice by less than 30 seconds. And especially what happened this year. It was a crazy set of circumstances that kept us out of victory lane. Without really going into it, it was just one of those things that happens. It was a crazy.

Looking forward, Grand Am are looking at a new set of regulations for the future – what are your opinions on those?

For me, especially at this point in my career, it is all about the fans. I have been around and been fortunate to have been around motorsports for as long as I have. I thank the Lord everyday for my career and being round as long as I have – I have been racing for 42 years now. With that it is important to keep the fans entertained. As we all know all economies are fairly tough globally – although it doesn’t seemed to have hit Australia quite as hard as it hit the States – and with that being said, if the fans don’t show up to watch to the racing it is not going to survive. I don’t care what you are doing. So when Grand Am was self owned by NASCAR, when you looked at changing the regulations, they are doing it to get closer competition and more exciting racing and develop something better for the fans – so I am all for it.

Moving to Grand Am and their relationship with the ALMS, how do you see those two bodies?

I don’t see a relationship between them and I don’t see them really ever having a relationship. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I see it in a realistic way. When you look at what ALMS is – they are more about the cars so unfortunately you see one or two P1 prototypes one or two P2 prototypes, they are running five classes together to get 30 cars. You talk to the guys racing it and the differential in speed between the P1 car like a Peugeot and GTC car is staggering. It can be dangerous. What is happening at Grand Am, what they have tried to do with the prototypes is not have a lock out. Anyone can come in as a team owner and they can buy any of the chassis that have been approved and any engine that has been approved. There is no lock out with anybody, you can come in and buy whatever you want and go racing. That is critically important when you look at a team owner going racing. You want to be able to buy whatever you need to buy to go racing and race at the front. With that being said I like to see that year after year the TV ratings continue to get stronger and the fan base is getting bigger and bigger. Even in a down economy the Series can grow.

Pruett raced for Lucas Dubmrell Racing in the Gold Coast 600 - something that proved challenging - for reasons outside of his control. Click for higher res

In the past you have won championships in the IMSA GT in the GTO class, won your class in Le Mans, won titles in Trans Am, in Grand Am, won races in CART and competed in NASCAR, what are some of your highlights?

Lets see – nine championships, eight Daytona wins a Le Mans win – it is kinda staggering when I look at the achievements that I have had a long the way. Some of my favorites would be the Michigan 500 win in Indycar, my win at Surfers in 1997, the Le Mans win was certainly a highlight. What we have achieved in the Rolex Series. But it is hard to go and win a 24 hour race, and for us to do it as many times as we have – it is such a team effort and such a triumph. So many people pull together, all the mechanics and all of the drivers, all the preparation that goes on before that. It is pretty special for a lot of people to go win that race.

Can you tell us a little more about your Le Mans experience? It is such a huge race and you went with the return of Chevrolet.

Well it was exciting – going with Corvette, the first time they had been back in 30 years and the year before, they had finished second. That was in 2000. I went with them in 2001 and going with them in the Corvette was incredible. Going there and winning the race with that team was unbelievable. The people that don’t really understand Le Mans, it is like the Indy 500 of Europe with the history and the pageantry and all the great races that have happened there. To go there and be a part of that and to win was special.

You have raced some great cars with some great drivers, what are some of your favourites and did you get along with all your co drivers?

Yeah, you know some of the greatest races I had was at the Brickyard with Dale Earnhardt Sr and we were fighting for 9th and 10th or 10th and 11th the whole race and at the checkered flag I ended up beating him. I think I finished 10th and he 11th, that was incredibly memorable and he came up to me and said ‘Pruett I think you are getting this figured out’. That was a big win for us.

Finally, plans for 2011?

Same thing with Ganassi, BMW stepping up their program and you easily see me in the long races over in the ALMS. With the BMW program.

Thank-you Scott for joining us.