TUDOR: Scott Pruett – Coming back home

The No. 01 Ford-Riley Prototype of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in action at Long Beach. (Photo: Bob Chapman)

Bob Chapman

This weekend’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca marks a homecoming in more ways than one for Scott Pruett.

While the five-time Daytona Prototype champion hails from Sacramento, Calif., just a three hours’ drive north of Monterey, Pruett, the most successful driver in IMSA history, has also been reunited with the manufacturer that helped kickstart his career nearly 30 years ago.

The 2014 season marks Pruett’s return to the Ford family, as the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates veteran driver spearheads the Blue Oval’s factory EcoBoost Prototype program in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

What’s more, Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas head into Sunday’s two-hour race on the heels of back-to-back victories in the Twelve Hours of Sebring and on the streets of Long Beach with their EcoBoost-powered Riley DP car, in what’s been a near-perfect start to Ford’s new chapter in sports car racing.

"For me personally, it’s great to be back with Ford,” Pruett says. “It’s a family run business. It’s where I got my start and it’s a great place for me to be. And it’s even more exciting coming off our wins. When you look at the [Sebring] 12 Hours and Long Beach, they’re kind of the opposite ends of the spectrum.

“For us to be able to set some milestones with our relationship with Ford and Telcel, it’s a great start to the season. Now we’ve just got to figure out how to keep doing what we do and get as many points every race weekend as we can.”

Pruett returns to the 11-turn, 2.238-mile Laguna Seca circuit, a track that’s always held a close place in his heart. He scored one of his first career IMSA victories there in 1986, steering a Roush Racing Ford Mustang to the GTO class victory.

"1986 was my breakout year,” Pruett recalls. “It was that year that I went from nobody to somebody in the racing world. When you’re close to home like that and you can pull off a victory, especially as a young kid, was incredible.

“Even to this day, Laguna is the track where the majority of my family and friends go support and watch what I do. We always have a big contingent, maybe 30 or 40 people going down. It’s no different this year than it was in 1986.”

While having gone on to claim four IMSA and SCCA Trans-Am championships, as well as numerous other accolades prior to his return to sports car racing full-time in 2004, Pruett has been impressed with Ford’s increased commitment this year, evident by the early season success that he hopes will continue into this weekend.

"I know how hard our team works continuously, all of the guys at Ganassi,” he says. “Now seeing that same dedication and focus from Ford is the first time we’ve seen that level of [manufacturer] support. We continue to see them making improvements.

"It’s such a new technology with the EcoBoost twin-turbo V6. It’s something new to the series and certainly new to us and a lot to learn about it. And we’re making strides every race.”