Brian Scott quietly working his way into Nationwide title contention
While guys like Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, and Kyle Larson may have dominated the headlines early, Richard Childress Racing’s Brian Scott is quietly and consistently working his way into Nationwide Series title contention.
Although he has yet to break through into Victory Lane, Scott sits sixth in the series standings, just 57 marks behind points leader Regan Smith, has the highest average running position (7.7), highest average start (7.3), and the most laps run in the top 15 (2,198).
Despite the strong stats, Scott knows there is still work to be done in order to turn their solid runs into race wins.
"I think the only thing that we’ve missed is that we need to be a little bit better on restarts, and we need a little good luck," Scott said. "Track position is so important in the Nationwide Series. We don’t have long enough races that if you loose it late on a pit stop or on a bad restart you donât have enough time to get it back.
"I feel like we’ve got the speed and we’re competitive enough to win races, we have to improve in just a little, tiny area like restarts and first lap after restarts speed, but our speed on the long run has been there," he added. "Had a couple of races gone just a little differently, had been more long-run to the end, and things of that nature, I think we would have a couple victories instead of a couple second-place finishes."
In his second full season with RCR, Scott and crew chief Phil Gould are coming together as a team and putting their notebook from last season to good use.
"We’ve got a good database of what I like and what I don’t like," he said. "We’ve gone on some science experiments the wrong way and we’ve figured out directions not to go and how to not shoot ourselves in the foot. Phil and myself communicate really well, we’ve strengthened the team, and we’ve got more experience, knowledge and notes from all these racetracks. That makes it much easier for us to show up and be fast right off the hauler and fine-tune it in practice. I think all those things together have really contributed to our strong start."
One of the biggest things that has helped Scott and his No. 2 team get off to a great start this season has been a strong showing in knockout qualifying week after week. Aside from Daytona’s rain-shortened qualifying session, Scott has qualified 13th or better in each race, with a pole at Richmond.
"First off, you’ve got to have a fast car, and Phil and everybody at RCR and ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing) with our engines and bodies, they’ve made really fast race cars," he said. "That’s what you have to have to qualify well. I think it fits me better to have this round-style qualifying because you can go out there and run a good lap, but take it easy and not really hang everything on the edge the first time, and really get a feel for what your car’s going to do. Then the next round you can pick up your intensity with an adjustment with the car. Then the final round, if it’s a track bigger than a mile-and-a-half, you can do the same thing. You can make an adjustment and turn up the intensity. You seem more keyed in."
Scott says the Nationwide Series weekend schedules often make it difficult for drivers to adjust to being back in the car once again after a long break before qualifying. Something that used to play into the hands of Sprint Cup regulars, he believes the new qualifying format helped even the playing field for Nationwide regulars.
"I think in the old-style format, you always saw more Cup guys get the pole position because a lot of times they have Cup practice in the morning," he said. "They’ve got on the track, they’ve got the first-lap jitters out of the way, whereas we’d have to get out there and try to just overcome the first-lap jitters, the fact we haven’t been in a race car and try to run our fastest lap of the weekend.
"All of those things put together it’s me to go out there and get the first-lap jitters out of the way and not have to be top of the board, just be fast enough to make it into the next session, and then have the anxiety and stuff at bay so you can go out there and get everything you can out of the car."
Last season, Scottâs RCR teammate Austin Dillon won the Nationwide Series championship over Sam Hornish Jr. without winning a single race all season long. For Scott, who remains winless, earning the championship without a victory would still be a championship, but — like any driver — he wants to go out and win each and every week.
"The sport of NASCAR has always rewarded consistency," he said. "They’ve done a lot of changing of formats in the (Sprint) Cup Series with the Chase they put more of an emphasis on winning. But the format for our championship in Nationwide has never changed. Itâs more of the old-school format where consistency is more important than winning races. Itâs just the way the sport is. How you get there, how you win the championship, the most important thing is that you won.
"I wouldnât feel the least bit upset if I won (the championship) without winning," he said. "Of course, you always want to win, you always want to just not even have that conversation, but consistency is every bit important as victory lane at this point. It just feels a lot better and everyone tries to get to Victory Lane."
This weekend at Michigan, Scott will have a solid shot at breaking through and finding that elusive win. He has been in the top 10 in both practice sessions, started last year’s race from the third spot and finished 10th, and is running the same chassis that led him to a fifth-place finish earlier this year at Charlotte.
If he and the entire No. 2 team can put together a complete weekend and score the win, the already tight championship battle will grow even more competitive.