high-fives a young reader at a book signing.
(Brian Cleary Photo -
We’ve always had a soft spot for Scott
Pruett here at Coastal 181. That’s because Scott and his wife Judy
and their kids, Lauren, Taylor, and Cameron, have been publishing
racing books for the last ten years, just like us. Their titles (see
left) are aimed at introducing children to motorsports, and they are
among the most popular books we sell.
In truth, Scott could
teach just about anyone in the world a lot about racing. That’s
because his perspective is likely as broad as any race driver active
in the United States.
A product of what he calls “the typical
struggling middle-class family in California,” Scott, now 51, broke
into kart racing at 8 and never looked back. He won big and he won
He dabbled in ovals like West Sacramento, but somehow
“the doors just weren’t opening.” So he focused on the road courses
dotting the Golden State, and by 1985 he was a road racer in the
employ of Ford Motor Company. It was as if his career exploded in
every direction. He could wheel anything anywhere with equal skill
ISMA championships followed in 1986 and 1988.
Then, Trans-Am and American Rolex Series Championships; the 1989
Indy Rookie of the Year; ten years with CART; a year with Sprint Cup
in the #32 Tide car; and recently the chair in Chip Ganassi’s #01
Telmex Rolex car, with what seem like annual wins at the Rolex 24
Hours of Daytona.
‘em again at this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
(Brian Cleary Photo -
It’s fascinating, actually, to talk to
Scott at a time that racing still seems siloed. Pruett doesn’t
divide things up between stock cars, open wheelers, roundy-rounds,
and sports cars. He just plain grooves on all of it. “It’s all a
huge technical challenge – but in different ways. When you think of
what they can do with that push rod V-8 in NASCAR, it is incredible.
And then consider those amazing data-collection systems in the Indy
cars! Any way you look at it, racin’s racin’.”
launches when asked about the driving part and what’s the most
exciting and dramatic racing from behind the wheel. “I’m still just
a student of the sport, so I don’t know if I can answer that yet.
But everything I have done has its drama. That last race at Fontana
in the Indy cars – I got the pole at 235 mph. Talk about being out
on the ragged edge. Same with the Michigan 500 win over Al Unser, Jr
– that’s all about going real fast and reacting real fast. But is
that more intense than 40 Cup cars blasting around Bristol on a
Saturday night? Or the feeling, as an American, of winning Le Mans
in a factory Corvette?”
So, the logical next question was
what specific race has been the most meaningful – the most moving –
to Scott personally? He didn’t hesitate a second. Like most every
racer, his response was about an event when he really was racing
with himself. “In 1990, I crashed testing on the West Palm Beach
course and broke my back, my heels, my knees and was out for almost
a year. I was 30 and I focused on my trauma like a job. Six days a
week, 8 to 12 every morning, an hour off for lunch, and back to
rehab and exercise from 1 to 5. I did that for months on end. Then
came the moment – the IROC race at Daytona. The night before I was
nervous, excited, anxious. The night afterwards I felt a huge payoff
for all that work. I won it after a battle with Earnhardt and
Someday it may be that this remarkable racing
dynamo will back down just a bit and glory in what he has
accomplished. It’s not likely to happen soon, but, when it does, you
can bet Scott will sit down in his self-designed home in
California’s Sierra foothills and uncork a top-shelf bottle of vino.
There’s a wine rack right next to Scott and Judy’s book shelf, so
there’s plenty in stock. You can get some, too. In fact, Scott told
us last week that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has just signed up
for a signature cabernet commemorating the 100th anniversary of the
500. It will come straight from Pruett Vineyards, Scott and Judy’s
© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181