News & Media

Scott eager to end offseason, get back to racing

February 11, 2012, Mark Aumann,

Strong finish to 2011 has JGR's Scott ready to get season started

If the offseason doesn't end soon, Brian Scott may run out of frequent-flier miles.

Scott went back to his native Idaho for Christmas, but couldn't ski because the resorts had no snow. So a week later, he decided to go to the Bahamas and get some sun. Since then, he's been sitting around Charlotte, itching to pack his bags for the 2012 season.

"If we're there and we have a chance at it, come the last part of the year, we're going to feel it's been a pretty successful season."


2011 statistics

Wins 0
Laps Led12
Avg. Start11.5
Avg. Finish16.2

"The offseason seems really long," Scott said during NASCAR's preseason media tour. "I know they pushed Daytona back only one week or so, but it feels a lot later. Maybe it's just my excitement going into 2012 with the way we finished out 2011."

How antsy is Scott to get back in the race car? He described it like "when you're hungry and you're trying to boil water: it takes forever."

A lot of Scott's impatience stems from how much stronger the No. 11 Toyota team ran in the later stages of last season, particularly starting with Chicagoland. Scott won the pole, led five laps and finished third, tying his Nationwide career best.

Four of his seven top-10 finishes came in the season's second half, including a fifth at Charlotte and ninth at Homestead. So even though his body went on vacation for a couple of months, Scott's mind has been focused on racing.

That seemed to be anything but the case when Scott was involved in accidents in three consecutive races in May -- Darlington, Dover and Iowa -- resulting in finishes outside of the top 25. At that point, Scott's career with Joe Gibbs Racing seemed at a crossroads.

That's when Steve DeSouza, vice president of the team's Nationwide Series operations, stepped in. He set up a meeting between himself, Scott and crew chief Kevin Kidd -- and had a "heart to heart talk" with the young driver.

"For me, I felt the pressure to perform and I was going out there, wanting to run up front," Scott said. "But I was ultimately making bad decisions on the race track, putting myself in higher-risk scenarios that ultimately led to more wrecks.

"They were like, 'Look, just finish the race. Do the things you can do.' When I realized that's what they expected out of me, it was easier to realize I could pull out of certain situations."

It seems so simple in hindsight, but the confidence that came from getting to the checkered flag seemed to be exactly what Scott needed.

"Amazingly, performance and everything got better because we were finishing races," Scott said.

Suddenly, instead of loading a wrecked race car on the hauler every week, Scott was driving it back to the garage area -- and more often than not, finishing on the lead lap.

With better qualifying runs, Scott was starting races farther up in the grid -- and avoiding the situations that sometimes had him three-wide in the middle of the pack, otherwise known as an accident waiting to happen.

"The snowball effect can happen in a negative way and a positive way," Scott said. "And once we started having a few positives go our way, we started really chipping away and climbing out of a hole that we had been in the first half of the year."

Scott's improvement wasn't just on the track. The communication he had with Kidd "continued to get better through each race and we really started hitting on all cylinders then."

So after the three-month layoff, can the team pick up from where they left off the last time they visited Florida? Scott's hoping that's the case: the main reason why his excitement level is at a fever pitch. If they do -- and Scott can build on the consistency he showed at the tail end of 2011 -- the team can achieve their goal of being a championship contender this season.

"You need to have an average finish of about eighth to win the championship," Scott said. "You need to qualify up front. You need to be in contention to win races and be in the championship picture. And that's our No. 1 goal.

"If we're there and we have a chance at it, come the last part of the year, we're going to feel it's been a pretty successful season -- because all of the other objectives, goals and expectations will have fallen into place to get us there."

At the same time, Scott knows what happens when you try too hard -- you sometimes drive past your capabilities. It's all about being disciplined and performing at a consistent level every week.

So while Scott can barely contain his excitement at getting back on the track, he has to remember to keep his emotions in check.

"You've got to be disciplined and not set everything too high and go out there and think you're going to win every race," Scott said. "So you try to pull the reins in a little bit, set your expectations realistically, go out there and take one race at a time and do the best you can. Hopefully then you can let the results speak for themselves."