Story By: IMSA – LONG BEACH, CA – It was the gamble of a lifetime 29 years ago that took the career of one of the most decorated and diverse drivers in American motorsports to another level.
Scott Pruett cannot forget the impact the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has had on his life, from coming to the track as a fan and meeting Niki Lauda as a teenager, to the year he bet on himself – and won.
It was in 1988 that Pruett sacrificed his life savings on an IndyCar opportunity that ultimately led to a transition from sports cars to open-wheel racing, and coming full-circle back to sports cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“Long Beach is that iconic track for me personally,” said Pruett, who will drive a Lexus RC F GT3 in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix on April 8. “For as many years as I’ve come here with sports cars and IndyCar, and the wins and the significance of them, I have so many great memories.”
Fast forward to 2017 and Pruett’s career resume since that day has been nothing short of legendary. He’s amassed 60 career sports car wins – the most in professional American sports car racing history – and 11 sports car championships. He earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors in 1989, won two IndyCar races, and made 50 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, scoring three top-five finishes.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
He scored his first win at Long Beach in a GRAND-AM event in 2006 driving a Lexus-powered prototype, and later won again in IMSA WeatherTech Championship competition in 2014. Those wins, along with an SCCA Trans Am victory in 1987, a win in the 2001 Toyota Pro/Celebrity race and two IndyCar podiums, earned him an induction into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame in 2012.
Pruett was relegated to giving guests pace car rides at last year’s event, but with the GT Daytona (GTD) class added to the Long Beach entry list this season, he returns with Lexus and co-driver Sage Karam in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3.
“It’s exciting to be back with a new program, and to be in Lexus’ backyard,” he said. “There’s nothing like being in the backyard of a sponsor or manufacturer your involved with.”
The BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach will be televised live on FOX on Saturday, April 8 at 1 p.m. local/4 p.m. ET.