Tim Tuttle
Wednesday August 19th, 2009

Scott Pruett drove in four Indy 500s and one Brickyard 400, and thought his days racing at the famous speedway had ended when he switched in 2001 to racing sports cars, which have never run there. He'll have an unexpected opportunity to return on Sept. 3 in a test sanctioned by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

"Just thinking of going back brings me goose bumps," Pruett said. "It's a magical place, the essence of motorsports."

The test is almost certain to lead to a race on the IMS' road course. Indianapolis wouldn't be allowing the Grand-Am cars to test unless it thought a race were likely. It's tantamount to the circumstances leading to the creation of the Brickyard 400. NASCAR's Sprint Cup cars tested at the Speedway in 1992 and the Brickyard followed two years later. It's also not coincidental that Grand-Am is owned by the France family's NASCAR Holdings, which have put their full support behind the series.

Two scenarios are the best possibilities for the Grand-Am at Indianapolis: A companion event to the Brickyard 400, running on Saturday, or a stand-alone weekend, likely in the early fall.

"We can put on a great show at the Speedway," Pruett said. "The fact we're going to test points to [us going] there. The powers that be wouldn't have scheduled a test there if they were not focused on putting a race there. This could turn into a race, maybe not in 2010, but 2011. It would be awesome, a dream come true for me.

"There's been a lot of talk about it [in Grand-Am], but it's picked up momentum in the past four or five weeks. We could do any of a number of things. We could do a three-hour race, a 12-hour race, a seven-hour race. To do something that Indianapolis has never done is very exciting."

Pruett, Grand-Am's all-time leader in the top-level Daytona Prototype class with 22 wins, thinks the final decision on the type of event hasn't been determined. The test is open to the public and media and, in a release, Grand-Am said it "will be used to gauge the level of interest of holding a sports car event at the facility among the fans, teams and media."

"I think they're keeping all their options open," Pruett said. "I'd like nothing more than a stand-alone race, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it a companion event with the Brickyard 400. At Daytona and Watkins Glen [where Grand-Am runs on the same weekend as Sprint Cup], some of the NASCAR drivers come over to our series. We [Chip Ganassi Racing] had a team car with Scott Speed and Kyle Busch at Daytona in July."

Grand-Am's premier event is the Daytona 24-Hour. Indianapolis would provide it a second event at the same level, just as the Brickyard 400 did in joining with the Daytona 500 as a signature event for Cup.

Pruett -- who has three Grand-Am titles and is in his seventh season driving for Ganassi -- and co-driver Memo Rojas will be among five Daytona Prototype teams testing. The others are: GAINSCO's Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, SunTrust's Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli, Michael Shank Racing's John Pew and Michael Valiante and the Spirit of Daytona's Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia. Four GT class teams are also scheduled for the test.

Pruett and Rojas, driving a Lexus-Riley, have a 248-244 lead in the points over Gurney/Fogarty's Pontiac Riley with three races remaining this season.

"It's great racing," Pruett said. "It's run by the people from NASCAR, and they want good, close, hard racing. We get the edge of NASCAR, you can scrape it up a little. You can be physical without getting blatant about it as far as dirty driving and [the officials] embrace it. I love it.

"You have to be focused on entertaining the fans. I've changed my view on that since I started racing. I think it's important. The cars are close and there's action every lap."

Pruett's chances at Indianapolis were cut short by circumstances out of his control twice. He was the Indy 500 co-Rookie of the Year in 1989, when he finished 10th, but suffered serious leg and back injuries in a testing crash -- the brakes failed at high speed -- in early 1990. Pruett began rebuilding his IndyCar career in 1991 and was back with a good team and equipment by 1995. But he was a CART regular with Patrick Racing and when the IRL-CART war began in 1996, Pruett's Indy 500 career was over.

Pruett continued to drive in CART through 1999 and won two races, but in 2000 switched to Sprint Cup with Cal Wells' PPI team. Pruett finished 10th in the Brickyard 400, but was released following the season. His Cup races after that came as a road-course specialist, a couple of year.

Indianapolis had become part of Pruett's history. Grand-Am's test will add another notation to it when he becomes one of the first to drive a sports car at Indianapolis.

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