Just a few months ago, Brian Scott had doubts about his NASCAR career.
“I had no idea if I was going to get a Sprint Cup ride, where I was going to land or if I was even going to be racing,’’ he said. “I had a bunch of different thoughts going through my head.”
The kid who got his start on Idaho dirt tracks is definitely more focused these days. On Sunday, Scott and his Albertsons/Shore Lodge No. 44 Ford will start from the 35th spot in the 58th Daytona 500 (11 a.m., Fox).
Scott, now living in North Carolina, is driving for Richard Petty Motorsports.
The NASCAR legend, with 200 career wins, including seven in the Daytona 500, took care of those doubts for a 28-year-old rookie looking for his first Sprint Cup victory.
“We looked at Brian and said to ourselves, ‘Here is a young guy who has a lot of experience in the lower series and can help us.’ We really think he can be a guy who can get the job done if we give him all the right pieces,’’ Petty said.
Said Scott: “He’s great for me as a driver with all of his experience and the things he’s been through. It’s always a great time when he’s around the shop. ... There is a little bit of an intimidation factor with him, but after you actually start a conversation with him you realize that he’s a really down-to-earth guy.’’
Until race day. Until cars start attacking the 2.5-mile superspeedway at 200 mph.
Scott has Daytona 500 experience, finishing 25th in 2014 as a part-time driver for Richard Childress Racing. He has career 17 Sprint Cup starts and nine years of experience in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series, winning Truck races in 2009 and 2012.
“This year has a really different feel for me,” said Scott, the great grandson of Idaho grocery store icons Joe and Kathryn Albertson. “No. 1, I feel at peace with myself and my situation. I’m really excited to be a part of the team we’ve built.
“And I’ve done the Daytona 500 before, so I feel like I’m prepared and know better. It’s not like this is the first Cup race I’ve done. I feel more experienced and more calm knowing that I’m locked in and have a full-time deal this year.”
Scott, who has competed in 208 Xfinity Series races with a career-best finish of second place, is one of five drivers competing for Sprint Cup’s rookie of the year. Scott said having Chris Heroy as his crew chief will be a huge asset.
“I think he’s going to be valuable because he’s spent time with Kyle Larson, and they won rookie of the year when he was with Larson (in 2014). So he’s got experience dealing with somebody who doesn’t exactly know all the ins and outs of these Sprint Cup cars and these tracks,’’ Scott said.
“We’re getting to know Brian and he’s getting to know us, but we see a lot of potential on the track and he’s proven to be a good person off it, too,’’ Petty said. “We are looking forward to getting things going.”
Scott, who had the top speed (199.880 mph) during Wednesday’s practice session, is confident he can give Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 44 (part of the Petty racing history since 1954) its first checkered flag in the Daytona 500.
The bigger picture is the season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, featuring the top 16 drivers in a mad dash to the November finale in Homestead, Fla.
“The team last year missed the Chase with Aric Almirola by one position,” Scott said. “They were right on the cusp of making it. And my specific group of guys, they didn’t have the performance they wanted and they also didn’t have the sponsorships in place that they needed to help boost their performance.
“So, I’m hoping that I am that guy who can elevate my specific team and also help my teammate to make the Chase. I’m excited, just really excited for this year.”
Elliott wins Xfinity
Chase Elliott won the season opener at Daytona on Saturday, edging Joey Logano for his first victory at the track. Elliott, a Sprint Cup rookie of the year candidate, along with Brian Scott and others, starts on the pole for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.