Veteran racer and champion Scott Pruett to retire after Rolex 24

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The first seismic news of the new season shook the racing world Friday – and it was nothing short of an earthquake.

Veteran racer Scott Pruett, who is competing in his 50th year of racing, announced Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway that he will climb from behind the wheel for the final time following the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 27-28.

“I have met a lot of wonderful people and have had some amazing experiences because of my motorsports career,” Pruett said. “I am humbled and grateful for all of my accomplishments and to all of those who have helped me along the way.

“At the end of the day, the good Lord has blessed me with a great career and a wonderful, supportive family. I’m excited and ready to open the next chapter. I might slow down a little, but I won’t stop for fear I’d rust.”

This is Pruett’s 50th year in racing, beginning in 1968 as an eight-year-old go-kart competitor.

He’s earned a record 60 wins in American sports car competition, including a record-tying five overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

He hopes to end his illustrious career with one more Rolex win, which would make him the all-time Rolex winner.

In addition, he’s a five-time Rolex Grand-Am Champion (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012) and two-time IMSA champion (1986 and 1988).

Pruett, who turns 58 in March, will compete in this year’s Rolex 24 for 3GT Racing in the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3. He’ll be teamed with co-drivers Dominik Farnbacher, Jack Hawksworth and David Heinemeier Hansson.

“Daytona is a magical place for me and I love it,” Pruett said. “I’ve always said the Rolex 24 at Daytona is like the Super Bowl of Motorsports because you’re bringing the best of the best from all over the world and the challenge of both man and machine is fierce.

“What better way to say goodbye to the sport I love than at this revered place, surrounded by my respected peers and die-hard fans.”

In addition to his prolific sports car career, Pruett has also mastered several other series, collecting 88 combined wins.

He spent 10 years in the now-defunct CART series from 1988 to 1999, earning 2 wins, 5 poles, 15 podium appearances and was 1989 Indianapolis 500 co-rookie of the year.

He also was a standout in the SCCA Trans Am Series, earning 24 wins and capturing three championships (1987, 1994 and 2003).

He also competed part-time in NASCAR from 2000 to 2008, with best finishes of second and third place in the Cup Series.

He also earned two wins in eight seasons of IROC competition. He also was a class winner in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001.

Off-track, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame last year, adding to being enshrined in the World Karting Hall of Fame in 1991 after 10 karting championships.

He also received the prestigious Phil Hill Award of Excellence in 2016 and is a 10-time recipient of the AARWBA (American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association) award.

Pruett and wife Judy have published four children’s books and they also own and operate Pruett Vineyard in his native Northern California, which produces ultra-premium wines.

Other career achievements include visiting U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, carrying the torch for the 2000 Winter Olympics and work with several charities including Make-A-Wish Foundation and Give Kids the World.

But don’t think Pruett’s retirement means he’ll move from a driver’s seat to a rocking chair. On the contrary, he plans to remain busy, including in the racing world, including continuing his partnership with Lexus.

“Instead of retirement, I prefer to call it transitioning into my next phase,” Pruett said. “I’ll be refocusing all of that energy and passion towards other areas of my life.

“Spending more time with my wife and kids will be the first thing on my list. I am very excited and honored to continue my partnership with Lexus. I am also honored to be an Ambassador for Rolex and of course Pruett Vineyard keeps me busy.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Combined speeds