Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with Brian Scott, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series. We sat down with Scott last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
BS: Hmm...that's tough. I can't think of one right now. Can we come back to that one?
SBN: Sure. What's a race in your career you feel like you should have won but you didn't?
BS: There are two. There's the last race of the 2008 season, the Truck race at Homestead. I was leading on a restart with 10 laps to go and – stupid move – I let Todd Bodine get by me in Turn 1 and finished second to him. I felt like I should have won that race.
The other one is a Super Late Model race, the Winchester 400 in 2007. Just a dominant car, had it wrapped up and I got involved with a lap-down car. And wrecked.
SBN: If you could make your own four-car Sprint Cup Series team – and you can't pick any of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers – which other three guys would you pick to join you?
BS: Well, for consistency, you'd have to pick Jimmie Johnson. Right now, I'd have to probably pick Kurt Busch, too – just the Penske stuff is running really good. After his meltdown, he's kind of turned the corner; I think he'll be strong for the rest of the year. And I'd also pick Jeff Gordon – he's just been running well.
It's not about who I like, it's about competition. That's who I feel like would give me the best chance at winning.
SBN: What driver did you want to be like when you were growing up?
BS: It was late in my life when I got turned on to NASCAR; I came up through the dirt ranks, so I always watched that. Back then, I liked people like Steve Kinser. When I got turned on to NASCAR and started learning the history and watching the sport a lot, it's hard to say you'd want to model yourself after anybody but Dale Earnhardt Sr.
To have the success he had – seven championships, really high in the wins column – and to have the respect and admiration and also be feared by all his competitors, I think that's something you want to strive for. You want people to respect you and fear you. And I feel out of all the drivers – past and present – he was able to do that.
It's amazing how he got under people's skin, but they still talk about him as if he was the best and they have the utmost respect for him. I want to strive to be like that, to be one of those types of drivers.
SBN: Do you think anyone is "feared" by their competitors today?
BS: You just don't see that fear like you saw in his day. You had Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace – there was just a different level of fear with them because they just paid it back more. You see payback on road courses and here or there at other places, but it just seems like there isn't the aggressive driving now as it was then as far as actually using your car and blatantly wrecking people.
SBN: What's a memorable post-race escape you've made from the racetrack to the airport?
BS: It's funny that you mention that, because just the other week I was bragging about how good I've gotten at negotiating traffic and getting out of the racetrack and getting to the airport in record time. This year, I've been the first one to the airplane multiple times. So I might not have won the race on the track, but I've won the race to the airplane (laughs).
SBN: What's your secret?
BS: You've gotta be aggressive. If there's a spot, you've got to move over lanes, kind of take the wrong lanes and know they've got most of the traffic flowing out. You can kind of pimp a whole line and get way up there.
You can't worry about if you're going to piss people off, because you're never going to see them again. You've got to be ruthless and dice your way in. If you put your turn signal on, people are going to be right up on your bumper and not let you in. But if you just start coming in, they're normally going to give up.
SBN: So basically, you're "that guy" in traffic?
BS: I'm that guy. Absolutely.
SBN: Who is somebody famous you'd like to meet who you haven't met yet?
BS: This is the man in me, but I'd like to meet Mila Kunis. She is smokin' hot. That's who I want to meet. I don't care about anybody else, I'd just like to meet a hot chick.
SBN: So did you see Black Swan?
BS: Yeah. I saw Black Swan. I kinda became attracted to her during That 70's Show and then in Forgetting Sarah Marshall when she's the hotel girl.
I used to like Jessica Alba before, but now she's kind of taken and off the map. So I've moved on (laughs).
SBN: But does it affect your Mila Kunis crush when you watch Family Guy?
BS: I didn't know she was a voice on Family Guy.
SBN: She's Meg!
BS: Oh, really? I didn't know that. See, you had to ruin that for me.
SBN: Let's say you have two options – you can either win the Nationwide Series championship without winning a race, or you can win about four or five races but not win the title. Which would you rather do?
BS: Well, at this point in the season – considering how everything has gone so far – I think to win the championship is kind out of the realm of possibilities right now. We've just gotten ourselves in such a hole and had such a volatile year that I would rather win four or five races right now.
Our season is kind of set in stone, and the best thing we could do for my own livelihood and for the livelihood of the team and attracting sponsors is to just go out there and win races.
SBN: What if you could start the season over? Then which would you rather have?
BS: I want the wins, but I'm going to say the championship. The championship goes down in the history books, and you're always looked at a champion for years and years. The wins, I don't think, carry with you as long.
SBN: Where does your motivation to win come from?
BS: My number one motivating factor to win is just my overall competitive nature. When I set out to do anything, I want to beat everybody else at it. So when I approach a race, my competitive nature fuels me to do that.
Behind that are all of the things I love about the sport: How important it is to win, how rewarding it is when you win for your team. All the hard work, all the time away from family, all the crap that guys have to go through. Late hours. Hustling. Motor grease and rear-end grease on them. Engines blowing. Changing everything.
All that stuff is part of the emotion when you win. So to experience that – not only for yourself – is truly special.
SBN: How much does your personality change from sitting right here to inside the car?
BS: I think my personality is always fluctuating; I think it changes day by day. When I get in the race car, I become a different person – my mindset, my focus, my anger. There's a lot of things that change when you get put in that environment, and even throughout the course of a race. Hotter, longer races test your mettle more and makes it tougher. It makes it to where you can lose it more easily, and you have less tendency to put up with bullshit from other people.
SBN: If you could switch lives with another athlete, who would you want to be?
BS: I'm torn between Tom Brady and Rory McIlroy. Totally opposite. I think the overall appeal of football, to be a top QB or one of the top players ever, would be incredibly cool. But to be a young kid like Rory is, kind of dominating right now in a sport like golf with such a rich history and tradition, and to get to go to all the cool places they get to go – all around the world – it would be pretty cool.
It would be cool to be a young, up-and-coming phenom like Rory, and it would be cool to be a very rewarded veteran in a sport like football.
SBN: So are you taking any tips from Rory's swing for your golf game?
BS: I love golf; I've played golf my whole life. I haven't quite figured out what makes him so good yet, but if I could emulate his swing and his ability for myself, that'd be pretty neat.
SBN: If you could take a year away from NASCAR and go do whatever you wanted, knowing you could come back with a ride guaranteed, would you ever want to do that?
BS: If I had a guaranteed ride to come back, I would say yeah. I'd take off and would travel and do a lot of cool things. Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef. Learn how to use one of those squirrel suits while skydiving. I'd travel, go to a lot of areas I'd want to see and then come back and have a whole new level of focus and drive.
But the caveat is, I'd only do that if I could without any repercussions.
SBN: When you eventually stop driving, what do you want your retirement story to say about you?
BS: Well, I think with the introduction of the Hall of Fame, I think you'd want your story to say you were a Hall of Famer. You set records on every level, you were one of the best and deserving of a place there.
SBN: Would you rather win the championship by clinching the title prior to the last race, or would you rather do it on Turn 4 of the last lap at Homestead?
BS: Turn 4, last lap, Homestead. If I know I'm going to win it? Absolutely. You want that for the sport. That's what the sport needs. Everybody loves down to see it come down to the last lap, last corner. It would be a great story, and I think it would be more of a triumph to know you had all that pressure and you still overcame it.
SBN: Alright, back to the underrated driver question. Who are you picking?
BS: That's still a tough one. I'm going to say Dale Earnhardt Jr.
SBN: Wow, that's bold. A lot of non-Junior fans would say he's overrated.
BS: He's underrated as far as performance. He's overrated in the minds of fans in that he gets a ton of attention, but there's a lot of people who say, 'He's over the hump. He can't do it. He's not going to win races anymore.'
But he's won 18 Sprint Cup races, won Nationwide championships. He's got pretty impressive accolades. And he can get it done on different tracks. He almost won Martinsville this year, he's a threat on any superspeedway and if you throw out the couple tracks he kind of sucks at – like Infineon – he's a pretty good driver everywhere.
There's a lot of baggage that comes with Dale Earnhardt Jr., but on the performance side, I think a lot of people underrate him. A lot of people forget what he's done in his career.
SBN: You probably just made a lot of Junior fans very happy.
BS: Well, I figured if I can't think of someone, might as well go with the popular pick! (Laughs)