Pruett eager to return to Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 31, 2000 - Much like former Indy-car rival Jimmy Vasser and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, Scott Pruett is glad to be returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year after a five-year ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 31, 2000 - Much like former Indy-car rival Jimmy Vasser and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, Scott Pruett is glad to be returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year after a five-year absence. But unlike Vasser, who finished seventh in the Indianapolis 500 in May, and Villeneuve, who will race in the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24, Pruett will make his first start at Indianapolis since 1995 in the seventh annual Brickyard 400. After many years of competing in Indy cars, Pruett joined a new Ford team formed by Cal Wells and now at 40 is racing a stock car in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Pruett led eight laps in his last Indianapolis 500 start, in 1995. He crashed with just 15 laps to go and ended up 19th. "More than anything, it's great to be back," Pruett said during Ford testing July 17-18 at the Speedway. "It was pretty heart-breaking being here in '95 and coming close to winning and never coming back. "And now to be back with Tide (team sponsor), the Winston Cup program, it's good. A lot of familiar faces, lot of people I know here both in the city as well as at the track. It's nice." Pruett, a highly successful Trans-Am driver, first qualified for the Indy 500 in 1989 driving the Budweiser Truesports car, finished 10th and shared the Bank One Rookie of the Year Award with Bernard Jourdain. He suffered serious leg injuries in a testing crash the following March, sidelining him for the rest of the 1990 season. He returned to Indy to finish 12th in 1991, 30th in 1992 and 19th in 1995. Is there anything he can translate from his Indy-car experience on the track to the stock cars? "Nothing, nothing," he said. "Actually, you get a lot of bad habits from the Indy cars. "But that's one thing we have learned this year that I've been actually surprised at is there's not much carryover. I mean, a lot of what you do with the car, how you set it up, how you drive it, what you have to do to make it run well is significantly different than anything I've been used to." Pruett admitted it has taken his team a little longer than anticipated to get a grip on everything necessary to be successful. But he thinks that the team, headed by crew chief Joe Garone, has progressed at a fairly steady rate considering that it was only built starting last October. Pruett is 40th in the standings with 1,070 points, failing to qualify for three early races. He started well with a 15th qualifying position and 19th place finish in the Daytona 500. Since he has qualified second at Las Vegas, third at Texas, sixth at Fontana, Calif., and ninth on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., but 20th has been his best finish since Daytona. "We've led some races purely on performance," Pruett said. "We've had some real good runs, and hopefully with a little bit of luck we can come back here and run strong. "We've qualified real well, front row, second row, third row, run real strong. But it's also about what you learn about racing. So we've actually put more emphasis on the racing side of it than on the qualifying side to have better races, so it isn't 'Wow, we qualified great, now what, what do we have to do to go racing?'" It's tough to gain experience in such a short time, Pruett said, and the team is using this season to learn as much as possible. But he thinks the team should improve its performance in the second half of the year since the series makes return visits to many of the tracks. Pruett said he had talked about switching to NASCAR during his years of competing in the IROC series because he found racing stock cars fun. That was one reason for the switch. "And the fact I achieved most of my goals in Indy cars except winning the Indy 500," he said. "I also said I would do it only with a good team and good sponsor. And with Cal and Tide, it took away all my excuses. And I thought, whenever I look back after I hang up my helmet, I'll be fortunate to be one of those drivers that has driven just about everything there was to drive." If Pruett qualifies this week, he will become the seventh driver to start in both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400. The others are John Andretti, Geoff Brabham, A.J. Foyt, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Danny Sullivan.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jacques Villeneuve , Robby Gordon , Scott Pruett , Geoff Brabham , Bernard Jourdain , A.J. Foyt