For the past dozen years, Brian Scott has been honing what he calls his “race craft.”
And on Saturday night, Scott, 25, will have the opportunity to showcase his skills during his Sprint Cup debut in the Bank of America 500.
Scott, who competes full-time for Richard Childress Racing in the Nationwide Series and is seventh in points, qualified 19th in the No. 33 Chevy on Thursday with a lap of 192.020 mph – one spot ahead of current points leader Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon set the pole-winning speed with a lap of 194.308 mph.
“I don’t really remember much of it,” Scott said of his qualifying run. “I remember I was not breathing as well as I normally do. It was exciting. This Chevy SS has a lot of power, and it’s just fun to get behind the wheel, obviously. To enjoy this moment and make my first Sprint Cup Series start is really cool — and (I’m) happy to be doing double duty.
“We have a really good Camaro in the Nationwide Series. This car, I think, is going to be good when we go into race trim. The guys have done a phenomenal job. They’ve given me a car that I can learn a lot in, and the car is obviously better than my ability now.”
Certainly, last week’s test on the 1.5-mile track with crew chief Scott Nasset helped the rookie get up to speed “and comfortable with the added horsepower and aerodynamics.” His RCR crew had the benefit of data stemming from Kevin Harvick’s race-winning run in the Coca-Cola 600 in May – along with notes from fellow Cup teammates Paul Menard and Jeff Burton entering the weekend.
The added seat time Scott will gain competing in the 300-mile Nationwide Series race on Friday night will help the driver adapt to the changing conditions of the track for Saturday.
Since graduating to NASCAR competition in 2007 with the truck series, he has scored wins on that circuit in 2009 and 2012. For the past four seasons, Scott has competed full-time in the Nationwide Series, where this year he’s posted a career-high three top-five finishes, including second-place results at Indianapolis in July and at Richmond from the pole last month.
Scott overcame his first challenge of the weekend – outperforming fellow first-timers Kyle Larson (21st) and Blake Koch (43rd) in qualifying. Although he will likely be overshadowed by Larson in terms of publicity entering the weekend, the Boise, Idaho, native also understands that being under the radar could work in his favor.
“The media loves him, but he has a lot of attention on him,” Scott said of Larson. “I think it’s great for him, but my goal is to go out there and beat him. We’re having a better championship year in the Nationwide Series, and we believe we can go out and beat him. If we can finish in front of him that would be good.”
Scott is also cognizant of the timing for his Sprint Cup coming-out party – which falls in the middle of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with the championship on the line. He understands that making the right first impression among the Cup regulars will affect his relationship in that garage for years to come.
“The last thing anyone wants to do – particularly me and making my first start – is cost somebody the championship or if I did something to insert myself into the championship outcome,” Scott said. “That would not be a real difficult thing. The important thing is to show respect and give room – and show that you belong out there.
“With over 200 starts in other divisions, I believe I have a lot of experiences. I understand. I get the big picture. I feel like the only thing I will be adjusting to is a new style car, and I’ll certainly give the other drivers the respect they deserve.”
Scott says he’ll be pleased to finish in the top 20 Saturday night. He believes his continued long-term success will come from studying the sport’s best athletes and putting those lessons into practice.
“The thing the best drivers do – better than anything else – and the thing that you have to be striving and working on is what I like to call your race craft,” Scott said. “Your race craft is everything that happens – from what happens from the drop of the green to the checkered flag. I believe it’s easy to practice well and communicated during practice.
“But race craft is how you communicate during the race. It’s also how you work in dirty air, pass lapped down cars, work a pass on drivers that you’re just barely faster than. The driver that have the most success – at least the ones that I’ve seen in the Nationwide Series like Kyle Busch – are the ones that do that the best. They race the best. And that’s what I’m striving to work on to be the complete package.