Wells taps Scott Pruett to drive Tide car By Marty Smith CONCORD, N.C., (Oct. 6, 1999) After months of speculation, Cal Wells' Tide ride has finally come ashore. Wells announced Wednesday that he has chosen CART regular Scott Pruett to drive the...
Wells taps Scott Pruett to drive Tide car By Marty Smith
CONCORD, N.C., (Oct. 6, 1999) After months of speculation, Cal Wells' Tide ride has finally come ashore. Wells announced Wednesday that he has chosen CART regular Scott Pruett to drive the No. 32 Tide Ford in the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. Pruett, 39, currently drives Wells' Toyotas in the CART FedEx Championship Series, where he ranks 20th in the series standings and has five top-10 finishes. He will make his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut at Daytona in February.
"This is a huge and exciting opportunity," Pruett said. "I've made no bones about the fact that I'd like to compete in NASCAR, but certainly at the right level. When Cal first mentioned it to me, I said that was something I'd have to think about. Then he came to me and was really serious. It was such a huge opportunity and the way that I wanted to come do it and really believed, especially with Tide and their heritage and what they've done."
In the search for a driver, Wells opted to do just what he did with his new NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division operation -- look in-house.
"We looked at that and interviewed some great people," Wells said. "There are tremendous athletes down here, but the biggest thing I wanted to eliminate as a variable was my own question about being able to work with an athlete that had the same kind of world-class credentials that so many people already competing in Cup and Busch have, but also were familiar wit how we operated, how PPI worked, and the harmony that is so important to a successful program."
In his 18-year career, Pruett has piloted virtually every type of race car, and he has developed a revolutionary tire. He has been in CART full-time for the past decade, and before that built a multidisciplinary career as a two-time SCCA Trans-Am champion with two IMSA GTP championships (including two 24 Hours of Daytona GTO wins), an IMSA GT Endurance title, 10 pro karting titles and annual IROC participation.
Pruett is credited with reintroducing Firestone tires to open-wheel racing in 1994. He spent that year as the test driver for the tire program and notched the manufacturer's first modern-era win at Michigan Speedway in 1995. That came after a horrendous testing accident in 1990 that required an entire year of rehabilitation.
Now, as the 1990s come to an end, he'll trade 240-mph speeds for the beating and banging of stock car racing. And despite the steep learning curve, he couldn't be happier.
"This is the premier motorsports series in the world, and to be a part of it and scrapping it out with these guys, I know they're gonna teach me a lot of lessons the hard way," Pruett said. "I know I'm gonna learn a lot and there's gonna be a pretty steep learning curve, but I'm very happy to be involved with the series and with Tide."
Pruett will battle Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Dave Blaney, plus perhaps Scott Sharp (who is rumored to be A.J. Foyt's driver of choice) and Mike Bliss (who is rumored to take over the No. 30 Eel River Racing ride next season) for NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors in 2000. According to Wells, Pruett will test the car for the first time two days after the CART race at California Speedway on Halloween.
Source: NASCAR Online