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Year in Review: Scott's career on upward swing after first year with JGR

December 21, 2011, Bill Kimm, NASCAR.com

In first year with JGR, more consistent Scott improved on every statistic from '10

To say Brian Scott was excited about the 2011 Nationwide season and all it had to offer would be an understatement.

After a tumultuous 2010 that saw Scott start the season with Braun Racing, get released three days after the Braun team was purchased by Turner Motorsports 28 races into the season, and then finish up the year at RAB Racing, Scott, 23, was ready for stability. So when Joe Gibbs Racing offered the rookie of the year runner-up a full-time ride in the No. 11, Scott was overjoyed at what the future would hold.

2011 statistics

Wins 0
Top-fives2
Top-10s7
Poles1
DNFs5
Laps Led12
Avg. Start11.5
Avg. Finish16.2

And for the most part, Scott's second season was a success. Scott improved on every stat from 2010 and proved that in the right situation, he could be a championship contender.

Things to smile about

Without question, Scott's career path is on an upward swing. In his first season with JGR, Scott had more top-fives (two) and top-10s (seven) than the year prior. Scott's average finish went from 21.0 in 2010 to 16.2 in 2011. Scott also had 20 lead lap finishes, up from 18 in 2010.

Scott also earned his first pole in 2011, at Chicagoland, and it led to a third-place run. Qualifying was perhaps Scott's biggest improvement from the year before. In 2010, Scott started inside the top 10 just six times and had an average start of 19.1. Last season, Scott started inside the top 10 in 14 of the 34 races and improved his average start to 11.5.

Those starts led to strong finishes, which helped Scott stay consistent all season long. Scott entered the top 10 in points after the fourth race of the season at Bristol and never left, and it was because of his consistency. Scott finished 19th or better in 27 of the 34 races in 2011 and he finished outside the top 20 just twice in the final 20 races.

Reasons to frown

While it was a successful season for Scott, five DNFs are too many for a championship contender, especially when four of them were due to crashes. Scott's first wreck of the season was his worst, when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time at Darlington and he slammed the inside wall. The next week, Scott's No. 11 got loose at Dover and he again found himself out of the race early.

But it was at Richmond in September where Scott stared a rivalry with JR Motorsports' Aric Almirola and it played out the rest of the season. At RIR, Almirola turned Scott going into Turn 3 and Scott crushed the outside wall. Before getting into the ambulance, Scott showed his displeasure with Almirola while being restrained by Nationwide officials.

Then at Kansas, the feud reached a fever pitch when Scott felt Almirola was racing him too hard and Scott decided enough was enough. After the race, Scott and Almirola were face-to-face and Scott said he told Almirola he needed to knock it off.

"It's an issue that's been building all year," Scott said. "He's run into the back of me on restarts, he wrecked me at Richmond, he walls me at Chicago. He races like it's the last lap every time he's around me, and I've had enough of it."

Scott's final crash came on Lap 1 at Phoenix in November, when Reed Sorenson got into the back of Scott's No. 11, ending both of their days and giving Scott his worst finish of the season.

Looking into the crystal ball

There's no reason to think Scott won't return to the top 10 in points in 2012 and even compete for the championship. The improvement in his second year shows what Scott can do when in top-notch equipment at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Scott and crew chief Kevin Kidd were successful on all styles of track in their first year as a team -- something that should only get better in their second season together.

"I don't see any reason why this team can't make the progress through the offseason and come back and have a team good enough to run for the championship," Scott said after the season finale at Homestead.

"I feel like Kevin Kidd and I have a relationship that is on really good terms. We're really communicating well. We're going to continue to work through the offseason just as hard -- if not harder -- than we worked all year. Come back and be a really strong team."