Scott Pruett joined Hurley Haywood for a press conference on Tuesday after joining the legendary sports car veteran as a five-time winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
MODERATOR: Scott, five career Rolex Series championships, at least 10 major career titles including the last three DP crowns, co-driving with Memo Rojas for Chip Ganassi Racing for Felix Sabates. Now five overall and 10 class victories in the Rolex 24 – what an achievement.
SCOTT PRUETT: First of all, thanks for having us on board today. It was an exciting weekend. I've been getting so many calls and notes and letters and everything from well-wishers talking about the achievements. And, for me, personally, it's great to be in a category with Hurley, without a doubt. And couldn't be more proud of the Ganassi organization with TELMEX, and BMW, and then with Memo, Charlie and Juan Pablo. That race is so special on so many levels for me.
One, getting my start back in '84 there, and with what we've been able to achieve with the Ganassi organization and some of the other guys that I drove for. It's such an event that is shared by the efforts of so many. I mean, all the guys at the shop with hours and hours of preparation, getting our cars to the race, and then the event itself. I don't know if we did 29 or 30 pit stops, but whatever it was, it was pretty impressive. Certainly much more of a team effort than maybe people truly understand.
MODERATOR: It wouldn't be a Rolex 24 without Hurley Haywood, who had a 23-year streak of racing in the event ended this past weekend when he was the grand marshal. He also has the second longest streak in the Rolex 24 beginning in 1971. In fact, Hurley has run in all but seven of the 24 Hour races at Daytona.
Hurley, can you talk about your emotions when you greeted Scott in Victory Lane on Sunday?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, it was kind of a mixed emotion. Scott did a fantastic job. He's a great credit to the sport. He races for really one of the very best sports car teams or racing teams in the whole world, Chip Ganassi.
As he said, there is so much work involved in trying to get through, let alone win, in a 24-hour race. So I was kind of hoping that he wasn't going to do it; but if there was somebody that was going to knock me off the stand, and he's just tied me now. So he's got to do it a few more times to get ahead of me.
He certainly is a worthy titleholder, and he's done – it was kind of shocking when you said when I won my last race there in 1991 that he hadn't really done anything yet at Daytona, I was kind of shocked by that. But the one thing I can say is I'm glad I was the grand marshal, because I was so busy doing that kind of stuff, that it diverted my attention away from the actual not driving in that race. I'd been doing that for 40 years, and it was a little bit weird standing on the other side of the fence.
Q: I had a chance to cover you when you ran for Patrick Racing in Indy cars. Tell me what it means now that your legacy could be with this Rolex title? Because you're always going to be known as the guy that won five and hopefully more down the road.
SCOTT PRUETT: It's been an unbelievable run. I've achieved more and have raced more than I ever thought I could and longer than I thought I would be racing as well. I'm still at a very fast level.
My legacy will be sports cars, for sure. Even though I did IndyCars for a bit, NASCAR for a bit. It's still, my mark, will be sports car.
It's been fun. Some guys have been calling me, and they call me Mr. Five-time or Five by Five, because we've won five Rolex Sports Car Championships and five overall victories at the Rolex 24 Hour.
So it's certainly just been incredible for me and incredible working with the Ganassi organization, specifically Chip. He's a hard-core competitor. He gives you the very best he can in the way of people and support and cars and equipment, and that is nothing short to help you get to each and every one of those achievements.
I'm proud to be part of the team and the organization, and proud to be part of Grand-Am. It's been a great, just an unbelievable, great place for me to be. I love it. Certainly when I figure out what that year to retire is, it will be coming out of the Rolex Sports Car Series.
Q: Scott, could you talk about how competitive the race was this year?
SCOTT PRUETT: It was incredibly competitive. You look at the quality of drivers and the quality of teams. It was the who is who with who was there. We ran 90% the whole time. The only thing we were overcareful with what's traffic. But short of running the car hard, we ran it hard. I mean, there was no holding back because of that level of competition.
I think I personally drove just a little over 10 hours of that race. And from races that have gone by – in fact, my wife and I were talking with this on the way home, it seemed that I was so busy the whole time. From the start of the race and even from when you put the car on pole on Thursday, it just seemed like a blur of how much was going on around it. Then getting ready for the race there, and there was just this ocean of people down on the grid, all this excitement leading up to it and then the race itself.
It was a different 24 Hours than years gone by for me with just how fast it went by and how busy I was the whole time especially throughout the whole race.
Q: Scott, Hurley said right after the race started when he was in the media center, he missed the butterflies he used to get just before a big race like the Rolex 24. Can you talk a little about the butterflies you might have had before this big race?
SCOTT PRUETT: Before every race you get this sort of excitement in your stomach. One is a bit nervousness, and one is a bit excitement. Probably even more so with the Rolex 24 because there is such a big build-up to it. They bring the cars out early. They introduce all the drivers coming across to the fans there. Again, as I mentioned, there is an ocean of people out there. That all kind of adds to that stress excitement level of the driver.
If you take what you do seriously like we do, I don't think there is any athlete – I don't care if it's racing or a quarterback, a couple guys getting ready for the Super Bowl this weekend, I think everybody has those butterflies of excitement and nervousness going into any great event.
Q: Hurley, Scott did this race with a foot injury that was obvious getting in and out of the car. Can you talk a little bit about you guys racing with injuries? You five-time guys are rather tough.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, I could sympathize with Scott, because I had a really bad leg injury back in 1983. So really every step I take, it hurts. I couldn't drive a Porsche for almost a little over two years, and that's when I drove for Jaguar, because I didn't have the ability to push the clutch down.
So I know exactly how he feels when he got out of the car on his last stint and saw him kind of hobble away. I knew exactly what he was feeling. It's painful.
When you're in the racecar, that was one of the few places I could go where I wasn't actually thinking about the pain, because you were thinking about so many other things. But the minute you get out of that car, that is when the discomfort hits you. So I know exactly what he was going through.
Q: Over your tenure in driving the Rolex 24, what significant changes have you seen? Do you see some good changes?
SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, I mean, from when I started there really wasn't a mechanism in place that would help teams that had gone down laps get their laps back. If you were in the middle-'80s and into the early '90s, the only way that you could get back on the lead lap was truly to race and try to get back there, be fast enough to be able to make that achievement. I really like the fact of what Grand-Am does – because things happen in a race. It's just the reality of it.
And fortunately this year with the TELMEX BMW, it was flawless. We didn't have an issue any time with anything, in comparison to our sister car which did have an issue and was able to work their way back up with quite a few laps, as we saw with Shank that put him right back into the race.
It could be a little frustrating for the teams, because these guys are tough, and you're kind of hopeful to get a little bit of a lead on them. At the same time, it's even more important that the fans are entertained.
We were coming down for the last few hours, and the way that the pit stops are going to work out with fuel mileage and who was going to stop when, and how much short of a pit stop was going to be over everything else. There was a lot going on in those last few hours to really set the stage for an incredible race.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: I agree in some part with Scott. Think the thing that's made these races so incredibly close over the last four or five years is the durability of the cars both on the DP side and the GT cars. These cars are almost indestructible, and it allows the drivers to push the cars hard and they don't have to worry about them breaking.
The thing that is a little frustrating is that so many cars make up so many laps under yellows, with the way guys have kind of free passes, that it eliminates the strategy that goes into a race like that, which was a real strong point of the late Peter Gregg. He was really good at strategizing and figuring out who has to do what, and that is part of the whole mental part of running a long distance race.
So when you get a lap down, now you really don't have to worry too much because you can pretty much be assured that you'll make that lap back or make multiple laps back under yellow flag conditions if your car is placed right. So I can understand why they do it. It makes for a better show. But it takes a little bit of the strategy of the teams away.