I.N. Sider Names Pruett ‘Jim Chapman Man of the Year’

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Following is an excerpt from the latest edition of I.N. Sider’s Behind Closed Garage Doors column on www.valvoline.com naming Scott Pruett as the winner of the 2010 James P. Chapman Man of the Year Award.

Even in a season when a 23 year old became history’s youngest Formula One champion and a 61 year old became a 15-time Funny Car champion, it sometimes seems all roads lead to NASCAR.

Which is why, in part, I’ll choose a path otherwise untraveled
Congratulations to the winners and champions of 2010. I’ll start that list with Jimmie Johnson, whose fifth consecutive Sprint Cup is historic in the classic – not cliché – meaning of the word. To Sebastian Vettel, without any doubt motorsports’ outright fastest driver, who overcame youthful indiscretion and questionable team management to grab the world crown. To John Force, for proving yet again that America loves a comeback story, fighting back from a victory-less season and serious injury to lift still another NHRA trophy.

Congratulations, also, to Larry Dixon, who did about everything anyone could do — winning all 12 of his final-round runs plus an overall 62-11 record and the Top Fuel title. To LE Tonglet, 20, NHRA’s youngest-ever champ, as a Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie. To Jason Meyers – incredibly — the first Californian to finish atop the World of Outlaws standings. To Steve Kinser, who almost duplicated Force’s comeback championship.

And, also, to Dario Franchitti, who did the Indy 500-IndyCar series double. To Brad Keselowski, who finally earned a NASCAR title for Roger Penske. To Todd Bodine, now a two-time Truck title-holder, with an all-but Valvoline sponsorless team. To Greg Anderson, NHRA’s Pro Stock king, after a year of great personal stress.

The Man of the Year, however, came within a flat tire and two mishaps by co-drivers of perfection. A dozen triumphs in a dozen tries. It could have been the Perfect Year.
And he did it racing below the national media’s radar screen, but still, with good grace and humor befitting his status as American’s Most Underappreciated Racing Champion.
For that, Scott Pruett has earned this column’s 2010 James P. Chapman Man of the Year Award. The honor is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary public relations pioneer and respected motorsports executive. Chapman, who was Babe Ruth’s PR man and confidant, also orchestrated the Driver of the Year Award. Pruett knew Chapman, who was director of racing for CART series sponsor PPG Industries before his death in 1996.

In the Rolex Sports Car Series, Pruett won nine times with Memo Rojas. Twice they finished second: Once, when Pruett got a flat tire while leading with two laps to go; the other when Justin Wilson pulled their Telmex BMW-Riley into the garage area at Daytona mistakenly thinking something was seriously amiss. Only at Lime Rock Park, on the second turn of the first lap, did it really go wrong as Rojas collided with Jon Fogarty.

“It’s just been unbelievable,” said Pruett of the season that brought him a record third Daytona Prototype championship.

What I find unbelievable — aside from the fact that Pruett is now 50 — is that those who think NASCAR is the only racing on the planet don’t give him the Jeff Gordon level of respect he’s due. Among those who know better is none other than Gordon himself. When the four-time Cup titlist needed a backup at Watkins Glen because of the impending birth of his son, he picked Pruett.

What a compliment from one champion to another.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Scott,” Gordon explained. “I remember as a kid going to the go-kart nationals in Quincy, Ill. He was the man. He was the rock star and super fast.”

Maybe a few reminders will jump-start the appreciation meter:
Less than one year after a 1990 CART testing accident left him with a broken back, two broken knees and a shattered left ankle, Pruett won the IROC event on the Daytona oval – still the most inspirational race win I’ve ever seen. He beat Al Unser Jr. with a last-turn pass in the 1995 Michigan 500. His nine sports car championships make a record. He tried NASCAR in 2000, way before that became a trend, and done good with what he had but his team owner didn’t appreciate it.

Oh, and he’s written four children’s books with wife Judy, has a vineyard, and been an insightful TV commentator.

What more do you people want?

“I’m living the dream,” Pruett says. “I get to put on my helmet and go testing and go racing and do what I love to do. I’d be doing it if there were no crowds around.
“My passion and my love for the sport is all I need.”

Still, we all need to feel the love, at least once in a while. So, congratulations – and thanks — to Scott Pruett. The Man of the Year.

source http://www.grand-am.com

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