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.
Q: Scott how will your ankle injury affect the rest of the year for you?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I've got to put this into perspective a little bit. This is an injury that I've had from a bad accident in 1990. I've changed up my training routine a bit before the race this year. I felt like I could go on and be a little stronger.
I can't go out and run on the roads, but I can run on an elliptical machine. So I was running 8 to 10 miles a day. I was working on twice a day, getting myself prepped. In doing so typically I would go in and get a cortisone shot in my ankle for that. Unfortunately, when you get that cortisone shot, that kind of takes you out from your typical training regime until you have enough time to let your ankle get back up to speed.
So I opted out of the shot and opted into a more rigorous training regime coming into it. So I think that certainly was not the best play. My endurance and all that was great. My ankle was sore. But it was the difference between 90% to a 100%.
I felt like going in the last couple hours, I was good at giving 95%. But if we had to have that hard-core, throw-down race, wheel to wheel, fender to fender with somebody, going in deep in the turn trying to make those maneuvers that you try to make to get by guys, I just wasn't 10% confident that I had enough strength in my ankle to do that.
That's why in talking to the team, saying this comes down to a shootout like this, I can run fast and I can run hard laps. But if it comes down to a hard-core fight, I don't know if I can give it all. With having a guy like Juan Montoya in there, I knew he would get it done.
Q: What did Charlie Kimball add to the team this year?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, Charlie was very much similar to when Graham came on board the first year. He did one or two stints. He always had to be a little careful with having a guy come on board with no experience in that race. Charlie did a fantastic job. He did exactly what we wanted him to do.
Those are some pretty big shoes that you jump into when you run for either of the Ganassi cars for the 24 Hour. They're always typically in a position to run strong and be in the hunt for a victory. With that, comes a lot of pressure and a lot of stress.
I think Charlie did a great job and got an understanding of the race and saw how it unfolds and the flow of it. I think it will help him out if he comes back to join us next year. He made a statement, even just going back to IndyCar racing this year, he thought he learned a lot to take to that.
Q: The Ganassi team has had so much success in sports car racing and in IndyCar racing. Its success in NASCAR has waned a bit in the last few years. Do you consider the organization a Sports Car team now? It's easy to say it's a racing team. But the success has been in sports cars.
SCOTT PRUETT: There is no question about it that the NASCAR organization has been struggling over the last couple of years, and they are addressing it. They're switching from CGR engines to Hendrick engines. They spent a lot of time with Ron and Jamie, and they're really excited about getting the season started.
The IndyCar side was plagued with a lot of engine failures last year, so they'll be right back up to song. And for Chip Ganassi, it's been great working for him, because he is such a hard-core competitor.
If you talk to him, he'll tell you, "My business is racing. It's not car dealerships, it's not something else." His business is going racing, and that's where he puts his emphasis and where he puts his focus. That's why there are so many changes within the NASCAR side of things to get it back to where it is. So I think it's going to be an exciting year.
It's great to come out of the box with all the guys. We share all this together within all three teams. Whether it's IndyCar, NASCAR or the sports car side. Everybody roots for each other, everybody's pulling for each other. You go into any of the shops and you'll see pictures of your cars. They know what's going on with the race. Everything is shared together.
I know for Juan personally to be able to come away with a victory in the Rolex 24 and now get into the NASCAR season, it's a great momentum builder for them as they take on the season.
Q: Scott, you've mentioned a couple times about Graham Rahal coming in early and now Charlie Kimball, you had to, work with him and talk to him before the race. Does it surprise, especially open-wheel guys, who come into a sports car, how aggressive you can be with the car, how sturdy the cars are? Does it create a different driving style for them that it may take a stint or two to get ready to put that kind of energy and aggressiveness into a car?
SCOTT PRUETT: The biggest thing that surprises them is how hard you can run that car for just 24 Hours. You run hard. Just taking in that volume of time. I mean, here we are in the closing stages of the Rolex 24. We've got, I don't know, three and a half, four hours left. Charlie was sitting next to me and he's going that's still a whole Indy 500 we'd have to run. That is like our longest race that we haven't even run yet.
Just listening to him, and it was the same with some of the other guys, realizing how long 24 hours is and how much goes into that and how many hours you'll spend behind the wheel getting there is pretty overwhelming. You don't experience it until you're there experiencing it. I think that was a huge, huge learning experience for Charlie.
Q: What about for you when you made that transition from everything else into sports cars? Did Scott Pruett have to get that kind of, "Wow, that's a whole Indy 500 I still have to go!"?
SCOTT PRUETT: It's interesting, because I came from sports cars to Indy cars and then back to sports cars. Well, Indy car, sports cars, and back to NASCAR. Starting your career in sports cars, you knew exactly.
I do remember my very first Rolex 24 in '84. And was so keyed up and excited to get the race going, and felt like I was out there killing rattlesnakes for the first two hours of the race, until one of my teammates goes whoa, whoa, whoa, dude. You'll be out of gas in six hours and just totally trashed. Just relax and stay focused on taking care of you, not being in the middle of what the team's doing. I've just trying to build on that over time.
Q: This question is for both of the drivers. It's actually a question from a race fan. They said to me, "How in the heck in the do these drivers relax for 24 straight hours? They don't sleep. I know I couldn't sleep." said the fan.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: For me, getting out of the car is like a switch on the wall. When I get out of the car, I switch everything off. We've got a whole team that takes care of all the drivers. I'll go back to the motorhome and I'll go to sleep – sound asleep for two or three hours, depending on when my next shift comes up.
So I really don't have a problem with that. We've got a real professional group of guys that are in the business of health. If it's really hot like it was this weekend, we'll do an intravenous strip to get the fluid back in the drivers. Because once you get dehydrated – and I've been down that route – it's just so difficult to come back at a hundred percent.
So we like to keep ahead of the crew and the curve, and keep everybody up to a hundred percent through the whole 24 Hour race.
SCOTT PRUETT: I find it, for me, it's changed. It changes every year a little bit. You do exactly what Hurley has said. As soon as you get out of the car, you download with the engineer. Any issues, anything, any kind of thoughts that you have whether it's well, we picked up a little vibration and maybe it's something we can keep an eye on, or maybe it shifts to third and it's got a little noise. Not that that happened this year, but to use that as an example.
But then it's right out of there and pushing fluids to rehydrate as fast and as good as you can. Have some really good calories to take in. For me this year, I tended to be on deck a lot more than years gone by, getting ready to go. That was one of the things that my wife and I were talking about. It just seemed the race went so fast. I only got about a half-hour sleep where typically I get three to four hours sleep. The first three stints I was in there just about three hours for each of those. So it was a bit of a blur.
I'm certainly glad I put all of the hours of training in before getting in the race. I think I even have a little bit of a secret weapon, because my wife's background is nutrition and occupational therapy. So she keeps me and makes sure that I'm up to par every time I'm getting out of the car and doing what I need to do.
Q: Do you think there is an opportunity to add one more endurance race to the schedule?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, I'm a great lover of endurance races. We've got the 24 Hours. We've got the six-hours at Watkins Glen. I would love to see another long-distance race come on board. I think going into 2014 we're going to have what I used to love doing – having the 24 Hours of Daytona and then the 12 Hours of Sebring.
So next year, Sebring will be on the calendar. We'll go there. That's 12 hours. So there are two long distance races, that coupled with the six hours, that's a pretty good schedule of endurance races for a season.
SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, I think what Hurley was just saying, there was some talk early on of making the Indianapolis race like a 10- or 12-hour race, which I think would have been incredible. Difficult to do, but I think it would have been incredible for the fans to see something like that. Then when you do come back together in '14, be everybody will be able to take in all the great races.
I think that's going to be the biggest challenge for Grand-Am, is figuring out what races from endurance and short. You've got Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen six-hour, you've got [Road] Atlanta, which is roughly a nine to 10-hour event there. You have Long Beach, and you'll have Elkhart Lake. And that's just a quick handful of races, let alone Mosport, and some of the other great tracks outside of the U.S. up with our neighbors in Canada.
So, overall, I love the fact that we do both. It's come a long way over the years to where these cars have become so robust. There is not a lot of difference the way you run your 24-hour race compared to the way you run a sprint race, as far as how hard you push.
The difference ends up being a different brake package and bigger and heavier pieces on the cars to go the distance. But short of how you approach it as a driver, from the start of the race to over the weekend, you're pushing hard right from the start.
Q: Scott, with the [ALMS] P2 category cars possibly joining Daytona Prototypes after the merger, that P2 car is a different kind of car to drive. Not only is it an open-cockpit kind of car, but it doesn't seem to be as sturdy as the DP. Is that going to change the way you drive or would you like to consider switching to a P2? What's that going to do to your aggression that we talked about earlier?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a different question. I don't know that we know 100% where the rules are going to go. I would be concerned that if Grand-Am does do a P2 class that they have enough entries to make it make sense.
If you have two full-time P2 cars, it makes no sense to do a set of rules for them. When you go into Daytona, I see that our current generation of [DP] car that we ran over the weekend will be plenty competitive. Unfortunately, when you go to a place like say Lime Rock, I don't see it being as competitive.
But there are going to be some challenges getting the car to where it needs to be. One thing I know within the Ganassi organization, Chip will get whatever needs to be gotten in the way of equipment to go out there and run the car. Without a doubt, that's what I know for a fact. He's the guy that will do whatever it takes to run at the front of the pack.
It's also exciting knowing, and this is from a conversation with Chip, having perhaps the opportunity to go over to Le Mans and run the 24 Hours over there, because that's not something Chip has done and certainly on his bucket list and one that he wants to go race.
Q: What if that car to be fast was a DeltaWing. Would you like to drive that?
SCOTT PRUETT: I will drive whatever it takes to be fast. I don't think there are many drivers you can talk to out there that won't drive whatever he needs to drive to run at front.
So if it means that we need to be in a DeltaWing... actually, I did quite a bit of sim running with the DeltaWing when it was initially being designed in-house at Ganassi. It's not a bad car to drive. At least on a simulator not a bad car to drive.
Q: Hurley, we laughed about it earlier, but would you want to get in the car with him next year to make sure he doesn't run away with your record?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: I thought Chip was joking when he said that. Then he said it to me a second time. So I'm almost ready to get into a physical regime right now and take him up on his offer, but I just don't think that that's possible.
I'm going to be turning 65 in May, and as I said in another interview a couple days ago, I don't want to be the weak link in the chain. And Chip has done such a great job that I would hate to get in the car with doing just one race a year. I don't think that is a fair thing to do to Chip or to the guys that I would be driving with. So I'm going to decline his offer graciously.
Q: I don't know, Hurley, if John Force could run Funny Cars at 300 miles an hour, even though it's a four-second race, you would think that you could get into a car and have the same kind of success.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: I appreciate your faith, but you never know. I might take a few months and think about it and then decide to take him up on his offer. But he's got to put a Porsche motor out there, not a BMW (laughs).