Continued from part 1 Q: Scott, you're about the only person right now who's in that group that's making the leap back and forth from NEXTEL Cup to Grand-Am, shall we say one series to another. What is your take on the Dale Earnhardt, Jr., ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Scott, you're about the only person right now who's in that group that's making the leap back and forth from NEXTEL Cup to Grand-Am, shall we say one series to another. What is your take on the Dale Earnhardt, Jr., thing? Do you think sponsors or team owners or what have you should be able to restrict a driver's ability to jump from one series to the next?
SCOTT PRUETT: They can. In my contract currently I have to get approval from Ganassi to do anything else besides focusing on the Grand-Am series. You know, yes, you have to get approval. I think for most of the guys, they would have to get approval.
As far as what happened with Dale, the potential for that to happen is always there. A lot of the times we dodge the bullet and are able to walk away. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't.
I think from Dale's standpoint, I think he does it because he loves driving. I think he loves driving the road courses. You look at Tony Stewart, he came and raced with us at Daytona, and absolutely had a blast doing it. I think there's a fine line between going out and doing something purely for fun because you want to do it and something that you go out and do and you want to make sure you don't get hurt because you don't want to take away from the business at hand.
I think from here on forward, I think you're going to see teams and sponsors and drivers, quite frankly, take a little closer look at that.
Q: Scott, you've been racing at Mid-Ohio for a number of years. Do you have any special memory, favorite story or anything about some experience you've had up our way?
SCOTT PRUETT: Wow, there's so many of them. You know, actually interestingly enough, one that comes to mind is I remember back a few years, back in '86, testing up there with Al Holbert and the Lowenbrau Porsche. That was a big mark for me. At the time in sports car racing, he was THE guy. His team was THE team. That was a huge moment for me.
You know, I lived in Columbus for five years driving for TrueSports and have so many great memories. I think the track has moved forward since my initial start there.
But for me, interestingly enough, that was my first entree into serious racing was at Mid-Ohio, with Paul Lewis back in 1984. At that race, that sports car race, really put Scott Pruett on the map to take a step forward in his career.
Q: They've done some changes to the track this year. They've shaved down some of the corners and creases between the concrete and the pavement. Have you been on it since they made some changes, either doing some testing or anything? Have you heard anything about that and how it could change a little bit what you guys do out there?
SCOTT PRUETT: I have not. Yes, we have heard this has been done. We have been in contact with a number of teams that have been there. That's going to be a little bit of a moving target because whenever you grind the track down, that's going to leave a little bit more groove in it. As cars run on it, those grooves fill up. What the track would have been like the first race back after they did the work is going to be significantly different than when we go back.
We have a very good idea what's transpired with the racetrack. As of right now, we'll find out when we get there. It's going to be great.
Q: How far has the Daytona Prototype (class) come from a year ago? I know they were really struggling when they came to Mid-Ohio last year. How much better have the cars gotten in just the last year of development?
SCOTT PRUETT: They're significantly better. We're looking at every place we go the track records have dropped at least by a couple seconds a lap. The quality of the teams has stepped up significantly. The number of teams, we were four or five cars last year, now we're talking 18 cars. That speaks for itself.
As a place to go race, I think there's a lot of people that look at this very seriously.
Q: Scott, when you get the chance to race in another series, do you feel it hones your skills as a professional or are you just getting some jollies?
SCOTT PRUETT: Both. I wouldn't say "jollies," that's not quite the right word. It's more just continuing to put that stamp on my career of being able to drive these different things, let's say at Watkins Glen in the six-hour, then coming back and running at Sears Point in a Cup car, having a great run there, then coming back to Daytona. You know, yeah, I'm having such a great time that I can't even hardly express that.
Secondly, things are going great. The cars are running good. I'm performing well as a driver. As long as I can keep doing that I think, in all these different series, it just kind of well-rounds me.
Q: You are probably singularly capable of experiencing or knowing what it's like to have had a racing career that was just moving along as fast as the cars you drove, and slamming into a wall and stopping it.
SCOTT PRUETT: Uh-huh.
Q: What did that do to you to have that happen at West Palm?
SCOTT PRUETT: Actually, it was at the temporary race circuit in West Palm, out at the fairgrounds. That wasn't as big as what happened with Cal Wells (in NASCAR). What happened with Cal Wells, I think, in my opinion, was hugely worse for my career because I knew making that step there, from the Indy Cars to the Cup cars, going into it being brutally honest with everybody, telling them it was going to take a long time, this had to be a three-year deal, it was going to be a struggle with a brand-new team and brand-new driver, we had such a huge mountain to overcome in front of us, and then everybody acting like they didn't understand what we talked about going into it was significantly a lot more difficult than the crash, broke my ankle, my knees and my back.
Q: Talk about the double duty that you'll be doing at Watkins Glen. How difficult is that?
SCOTT PRUETT: Actually, it won't be too bad. The way that it's broken up going into that weekend, I see it being more difficult the Brickyard weekend. I'll be flying back and forth between the Brickyard and Mid-Ohio, going on an oval to going on a road circuit.
But being on the same circuit up at the Glen, I don't see it being too bad at all. We do the bulk of our work with our Grand-Am car on Thursday, and then we practice/qualify on Friday morning, early afternoon, then we're back to go racing at the Glen, you know, Friday evening, then I don't race again until Sunday for the Cup car.
I don't see it being that bad. Robby Gordon has done it in the past. I think a couple of the other guys have. I know Kyle Petty has, as well. I don't see it being a significant factor.
Q: Even though the cars are totally different, does that extra track time in the Daytona prototype help you at all with the Cup car?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think it will. Not that it's going to ultimately help me as far as driving the Cup car, but it will help you because you get up and you get sharp a day earlier. You're on the track. You got the rhythm going. You got the feel going. You know what to expect from the racetrack. From that standpoint, I do think it's going to help me as I step into the Cup car Friday morning.
ADAM SAAL: Scott, we'll let you get back to whatever stuff you're working on down there in North Carolina. Congratulations on picking up the Brickyard ride. It's going to be great to see you pulling double duty. Who knows, maybe somebody will want to hop on the plane and go back and forth with you to Mid-Ohio.
SCOTT PRUETT: Appreciate it. I'll be talking to you soon.
ADAM SAAL: Wayne, talk a little bit about the Riley development. Your team is housed and operated out of Riley Technologies. They are in Indianapolis. This car has become a contender almost out of the box. Did you know these were the guys you wanted to do this program with when you came out of retirement?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Any time you put a program together, you've got to surround yourself with the best in terms of guys who run the program, engineers, mechanics, teammates, sponsors and so on.
We've enjoyed a lot of success together, the Rileys and myself. That stems back to when I first came to the United States in 1990. You know this racing game, it's really a fickle business. You end up working with guys, then going elsewhere, then coming back again.
When I look at my sort of 14, 15-year career living in the United States, most of my success has been with these guys back from the days of the Intrepid, then the Oldsmobile Aurora with the championship year, Daytona and Sebring, and of course now. So when it was time to put this program together, it made it pretty easy to decide where to go.
ADAM SAAL: Seems to be working well. Both of these teams run Rileys. One is powered by Lexus, the other powered by Pontiac.
Again, let's open it back up to our friends in the media.
Q: Wayne, Max Angelelli, could you describe the difference between the six-hour race, the long course at The Glen, and the relatively short sprint race on the short course.
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, the six-hour event on that track is probably one of my favorites in North America. I really hate the bloody short course because it's really -- you know, it's just so different. I think that the opportunity for passing and stuff is not as good on the short track as it is on the larger track.
However, I've run both circuits in the past. I would say it's a little Mickey Mouse, the short circuits. It's on the map, and I guess we've just got to do the best we can.
Q: Do you think you might actually have a better advantage because you guys were super fast there on the long course, the short course favors more horsepower?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Who says we got more horsepower (laughter)?
Q: Larger engine displacement.
WAYNE TAYLOR: Does that mean more horsepower (laughter)?
Q: I don't know. I just watch from the press room. But do you think that may favor you guys?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, I think if you look over the course of the year, the reason why I asked you about horsepower is because we've keep hearing that we're winning because we've got the most horsepower. But at the beginning of the season, we heard we were good on the short courses and we won't be good on the high-speed courses. We went to the high-speed courses, were faster, then it became an engine issue.
I think it all comes down to the packaging of the total program. I think all around we've got all the ingredients right. Not to say that Ganassi and them haven't, they've obviously got it right because they're leading. But it takes a bit of each one of those ingredients to make the right package.
And I think because the formula appears to be so well-suited at the moment, I think that it's going to take all the fine tuning to get the edge over everybody because the championship is growing at a great rate.
You know, it's just really to get the package together. I think we've proved that we can be fast on short tracks and on the high-speed tracks. It's just a case of getting your act together as soon as you get to the racetrack.
Q: Max Angelelli, do you have anything to add? Is this your first experience on Watkins Glen short course?
MAX ANGELELLI: Yeah, the first time. I would like to add something about the engine issue. We have bigger engines, but don't forget we have less revs and one gear less than them.
The rule that has been made by Grand-Am works pretty well because we are all pretty much the same on power issue really. This is how I feel.
ADAM SAAL: It's obviously a sign of a competitive series if everybody is looking at other components and packages and saying they're fast, so forth. You do have a Lexus 4.3 liter V8. The Pontiacs in our series are a 5.5 liter push rod V8, a little different technology. Again, they're all spec'd out and all determined to be as equal as possible working with our friends up there at North Carolina at the R&D center. Back to questions with our media.
Continued in part 3