AP Auto Racing Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Scott Pruett has a chance to stand alone atop the Daytona record books. To pull off the feat, he will have to win with an unfamiliar group.
Pruett goes into the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona attempting to claim a record sixth overall victory. He is currently tied with Hurley Haywood with five.
But he is in a new environment since parting ways with Chip Ganassi Racing after 12 years. He will race in the twice-round-the-clock endurance race for Action Express Racing, a team that claimed overall victory in 2014, then won Sebring and Petit Le Mans last season. Full-time drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa are also the two-time series defending champions of the prototype class.
For Pruett, taking the job wasn’t necessarily about breaking Haywood’s record.
He viewed it as the best available seat in a year of transition for Pruett.
“I’ve never really paid attention to records and all that stuff,” he said. “It’s great to have them when you look back, but I want to go win. Every race I get into, I want to do my best and be prepared and go out and do my job and hopefully good Lord willing and the racing Gods look down us and let us get to victory lane.”
This could be Pruett’s final shot at the record, though.
His parting with Ganassi led him to a deal with Lexus as the Japanese automaker returns to sports car racing with the RC F GT3. Pruett will eventually drive for Paul Gentilozzi in select events this year as the car remains in development. The team plans to run a full schedule with a multiple cars in 2017, but in a class not likely to compete for the overall victory at Daytona International Speedway.
Pruett, who turns 56 in March, didn’t make the decision lightly.
“When you’re with a group 12 years and had all the success we’ve had, it’s an awesome run,” he said. “We set the standard, we broke the records, we did what we had to do. I hate to say all things come to an end, but you know, I chose a different direction than (Ganassi’s) program was leading me.”
In choosing Lexus, he said, he wanted to work “around people that have the same focus I do about going winning and that commitment and that dedication to going winning.”
Action’s success in the endurance races had previously come with a three-driver effort of Barbosa, Fittipaldi and Sebastian Bourdais. But Bourdais has moved to a Ganassi entry this year, and Action will use four drivers in the race that begins Saturday afternoon.
Also driving in the quartet will be Filipe Albuquerque, a Portuguese who was part of a class victory at Daytona in 2013. The four Action drivers have a combined 16 class wins at Daytona.
“It’s been smooth sailing,” Fittipaldi said of the new lineup. “(Pruett) has a lot of experience in these cars and you know how many times he won around here, myself, Joao, and also Filipe — he doesn’t have a lot of experience in the prototypes here at Daytona, but he has a lot of experience in Europe with the big cars over there. So it’s a great match for everyone.”
Barbosa was just glad to finally be aligned with Pruett and not racing against him as the Ganassi entries are typically among the favorites.
“It’s a relief — we don’t have to race him anymore,” Barbosa said. “We come from two straight championships, and we’re very pleased that Scott, with all the options he had, he chose us to try and beat Hurley Haywood’s record. You can see he has nothing to prove. He’s proved everything he had to prove. He’s a great driver, so there’s no pressure, and we all gain from his experience.”