The Watches And Racing Life Of Legendary Endurance Racer Scott Pruett
Cars & motorsport

The Watches And Racing Life Of Legendary Endurance Racer Scott Pruett

We sit down with the five-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner to talk watches and car racing. His one-of-a-kind collection of Rolex watches will surprise even the most astute collectors.

By Josh Shanks

If you told young Scott Pruett that he’d become one of the most well-known names in endurance car racing, he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Growing up in the small Northern California town of Roseville (just outside of Folsom, CA) Pruett started racing cars at the tender age of 8. 

For the last 50 years, Pruett has raced in nearly every auto racing category. From a ten-year stint in CART/IndyCar to being a road course specialist in NASCAR, Pruett has done it all. But it’s Pruett’s decades-long participation – and five overall wins – at the Rolex 24 that has helped cement his place as one of the winningest drivers at Daytona. 

Pruett retired at the end of the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, and returned this year as the Grand Marshall of the race. The role is a change for Pruett. “Needless to say, it’s been really different for me," he said during our meeting.  "My first Rolex Daytona was in 1985, and I’ve done this race every year for the last 16 years. It’s different, it’s wonderful, it’s exciting, but I have to admit it was great to get out on the track for hot laps. When you do the same thing for as many years as I’ve been coming to Daytona, all the races, the victories, all the championships in that iconic 01 with Chip Ganassi and group. I couldn’t imagine a better way to do it than to come back here as Grand Marshall. “

The iconic 01 Chip Ganassi Team

In 2004, Pruett joined Chip Ganassi’s sports car team and went on to capture multiple overall and class wins at Sebring, Daytona, and throughout the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. With Team Ganassi, Pruett won the overall Rolex 24 trophy in 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2013. On display at Daytona was Pruett's 2013 Rolex 24 winning car, the same car in which he won the overall trophy at Daytona, tying Hurley Haywood's five victories.  At the Marshall's gala before the start of the Rolex 24, Pruett was seated next to Ganassi, who still seems to be in awe of his former driver. 

Looking back at his career at Daytona, Pruett remarked, “When I came here in 1985 I drove a Mazda, which I think is why I’ve lost the majority of my hearing (laughs). Anybody who knows Mazda knows how loud they are with the muffler on, ours fell off about two in the morning and I’ve had ringing ever since. Many recall that one special track, and this is that track for me. For those that know me, know I call it "my house" because of winning all the races here. Not just the Rolex 24, but the night races in the summertime, the IROC races, and NASCAR. There are so many amazing memories at this track.”

The Rolex Connection

While Rolex and Daytona go back longer than the actual racetrack (Read HERE), the connection between the two has endured in the Rolex Daytona watches that have been given to the winning team’s drivers every year since 1992. All five of Pruett’s overall Rolex 24 at Daytona wins have come under Rolex’s title sponsorship, which means, you guessed it, he’s won FIVE Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona timepieces. On top of that, his five championships in Sports Cars have led to five more Daytonas being added to his collection.

During the Rolex 24 weekend, we had the special opportunity to sit with Pruett and experience his personal Rolex collection. Turns out, Pruett is quite the Rolex aficionado, he even refers to himself as a “Rolex nut.” 

Within the confines of the Daytona 500 club, that overlooks Daytona’s start/finish line and victory lane, Pruett brought out what he called “quite a box of Rolexes!” With eight victories at Daytona, five overall championships, and his Grand Marshall duties (for which he was also given a watch) Pruett has quite the collection indeed. Turns out, his collection goes beyond watches that he's won over the years, he’s also bought two Rolexes himself.

Scott Pruett’s Rolex Collection

Rolex Submariner Two-Tone – Pruett boutght his Submariner Two-Tone in 1987 after making a deal with himself. After winning the Sports Car championship in 1986, Pruett was invited to do IROC (The International Race Of Champions), a series that pitted winning drivers from various categories for exhibition races. His deal with himself was that if he won the IROC, he would buy himself a Rolex. And he won. The IROC was racing at Riverside Speedway in California that year. During the race, Pruett made contact with Roberto Guerrero, but in the end, he took the victory. “That race means so much to me, my first IROC win, and the last race at the iconic Riverside track,” he said After the race, Pruett walked into a local Rolex boutique and, as he remembers, said “I just won a race, and I need to treat myself.”

Steel & Gold Daytona (circa 1992). This watch is the first Rolex Daytona that Pruett received from Rolex. At the 1992 Rolex 24, Pruett drove a Wackenshaw Jaguar 12. The team ended up winning their class (Prototype) but finished second overall. After he returned back to his home in California, Pruett sent a letter to Rolex saying that he had just participated in the Rolex 24 and wanted to purchase a Daytona. Much to his surprise, Rolex sent him a Steel and Gold Daytona with ‘Daytona Winner’ inscribed on the caseback. There was a funny aside to this piece, which Pruett explained, “I’m going to tell you a little secret here, which maybe I shouldn’t tell the Rolex people. They sent me the watch, but they never sent me a bill (laughs). It was a great race with incredible memories, so it was incredibly generous that they did that.”

Zenith Daytona – This stainless steel Daytona with a white dial was presented to Pruett after his first overall Rolex 24 win in 1994. It's referred to as a Zenith Daytona because it has a movement made by Zenith, as opposed to later Daytonas with Rolex movements. In 1994, he was driving for the factory Nissan team. During our conversation about the piece, Pruett said that he gave the watch to his oldest daughter for her 21st birthday. It's a family tradition. He allows each of his children to choose a Rolex for their 21st birthday. His daughter is 30 now, and Pruett said that it was very hard to pry the watch away from her to bring it to Daytona.

Yellow Gold Yacht Master – This watch is another that Pruett bought for himself. In 1999, his last year of IndyCar, he challenged himself yet again. If he get a pole or won a race, he would buy himself a solid gold Rolex. Unfortunately, shortly after the season started, his dream of one day purchasing said watch took a massive hit. During testing, his team (Toyota’s Factory team) blew up 10 engines in two days. Pruett thought his dream of purchasing a watch for a successful season was over, but as the season went on, the team improved. At the last race of the season, he took pole position at Fontana raceway with a blistering speed of 247mph. Two decades later, Pruett is still crazy about the watch.“I love this watch, and I really love the dial. I love the memory it brings of my last race in IndyCar.” 

Championship Watches – From 2000 to 2013, Rolex sponsored the overall SportsCar series. Pruett won the championship an impressive five times, the first time in 2004 with Chip Ganassi's Lexus Grand Am team.

All five of his championship watches are especially meaningful for Pruett because they reward a team for its effort throughout the season, not just a single victory. Over the years, Rolex watches have become so emblematic of Chip Ganassi's organization that he gifts a Rolex to employees when they their 20 year anniversary at the company. According to Pruett, quite a few have reached this milestone and been richly rewarded. 

Grand Marshall Watch – Pruett was given a current model Stainless Steel Rolex Daytona with black ceramic bezel just before the 2019 Rolex 24. Featuring a unique ‘Grand Marshall 2019’ inscription on the caseback, Pruett’s latest acquisition didn’t leave his wrist throughout the weekend. Because of the relative scarcity of the watch, fellow drivers were stopping Pruett to ask how he got the watch, and Pruett just replied with a sly grin. The one thing you notice after spending any amount of time with Pruett is his humility. I asked him how he managed to stay so humble despite the decades of success and fan admiration, and he simply said, “I’m blessed man! I’ve gotten the opportunity to do what I absolutely love for so many years. So I always appreciate every day, every race, and every moment.”

I asked Pruett if he ever asks a fellow driver to flip over their watch to see if there is a Daytona 24 inscription. Pruett replied laughingly, “You know it’s a wonderful thing, if you talk to any driver, they’ll tell you the same thing. When you come to Daytona, it’s about the watch. Because if you win the watch, you’re wearing it proudly. It’s not a trophy that goes on a shelf or money that goes in the bank. When you win the Rolex 24, you can wear that sucker every day. I’m just fortunate that I’ve won 15 of them.”

(Photography by Watchonista, Scott Pruett, and Rolex)

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