By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
When most drivers think about their final race, they likely imagine rolling off into the sunset with a spirited final drive.
Not Scott Pruett. He opted for the darkness at Daytona International Speedway instead.
“I think last night I did all my driving,” Pruett said after his final stint in Sunday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. “The majority of my driving was from about 8 o’clock last night to about 7 o’clock this morning, with maybe one or two out‑of‑the‑cars in between.
“So I’ll remember the darkness of Daytona and certainly all the craziness that happens at nighttime, along with a little rain. And those are all great, fond, wonderful memories.”
Pruett, 57, capped off his legendary racing career with one final run in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s season-opening endurance race, piloting the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F with teammates Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson and Dominik Farnbacher.
The veteran’s final race was ultimately forgettable, at least on-track. A host a gremlins throughout the relatively caution-free event and a late crash marred 3GT Racing’s effort. The team came home 29th overall after completing 744 laps, with a hopeful final stint for Pruett scrubbed as the clock wound down.
The run was only good for ninth place in the GT Daytona class, but reaching the finish was enough for Pruett – a five-time overall winner of the Rolex 24 – to be content.
“That was the number one priority, getting to the checkered flag,” Pruett said. “You’d like to get there first, but secondly you want to get there.”
His final race complete, Pruett retires as one of sports car racing’s most decorated drivers.
Over his five decades in motorsports, the native Californian made starts in everything from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to Virgin Australia Supercars. Pruett won two races in the International Race of Champions (IROC), and triumphed two other times in what was then the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series.
But while he had prowess in many forms of racing, Pruett’s greatest successes came in sports cars – most notably with Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR), who earned their 200th-career race win in his final event. It was with CGR that Pruett tallied 40 of his 41-career IMSA overall victories. Pruett also claimed four of his five Rolex 24 triumphs with the team, and led the organization to five titles from 2004-2012.
“I can’t say enough about (CGR owner) Chip (Ganassi) and his organization,” Pruett said. “We broke the record books together. All of the wins, all of the successes, and the majority of them came in sports cars.”
Pruett’s decorated career also included three Trans-Am titles, two IMSA Camel GTO victories, a total of 60 sports car wins and 10 class victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
His time behind the wheel done, Pruett now prepares for life beyond the cockpit, where he’s likely to spend the rest of his days. While he might be retiring, Pruett has no intentions of leaving the sport outright.
“I’m not leaving, but I certainly am going to open up a new chapter,” he said.
Instead the IMSA veteran will take a temporary hiatus, reflecting on his career with the people that mean the most to him – his family.
“The first thing is, more than anything else, just toast this incredible career with my wife and family,” Pruett said about his celebration plans. “Just look back and take a moment to reflect on how wonderful… The good Lord’s blessed me with an incredible career doing all of this great stuff.
“I’m just taking a moment to savor that. Because typically I’m that guy with my head down just going forward, never looking back. I’m afraid it might catch up to me.
“Now it’s kind of caught up to me, and I might like to sit on the porch, have a glass of wine and look back a little bit.”