Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway will see more than one driver stepping away from full-time Sprint Cup Series competition. Along with Tony Stewart’s well-documented retirement from Cup racing, Brian Scott will also take the green for the final time, hanging up his helmet to focus on his family.
2016 has been an “extremely frustrating” year for the rookie driver, who comes off six years of XFINITY Series experience and has driven the No. 44 for Richard Petty Motorsports. After struggling to reach the top 30 in points, Scott made the decision public last week to step away from the series at the checkered flag in Homestead.
Frontstretch caught up with Scott Saturday ask why he decided to hang it up, the response from the NASCAR garage and what his plans are for the future.
Zach Catanzareti, Frontstretch: What led you to the decision to make 2016 your final season?
Brian Scott: Well, being full-time in the Sprint Cup Series and understanding that schedule, on how rigorous it is, and then combined with two kids – they grow older, they have more needs, more interests, likes, dislikes of their own. They start doing things that make traveling every weekend 10 months out of the year a lot more difficult. I just decided… my family lives their life for me right now. I just feel like I should be living my life for them to provide the best opportunities and allow them to pursue their passions.
Catanzareti: Was it just tougher than you expected?
Scott: It was tougher. Combine that with lacking performance like we have, it just hasn’t been as fun of a year that it could’ve been if performance was better. Maybe that would change things, maybe it would still be the same. All in all, the past is the past and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.
Catanzareti: If you were going out there, winning races and contending, would that have changed it?
Scott: I feel like it was mostly a family decision. Would that be enough to persuade me to stay in the sport longer? I don’t know. I can only hypothesize it, it’s hard to say. It might have allowed me to stay and, as I said, I may have had the same decision.
Catanzareti: What do you think RPM must gain for next season?
Scott: Just performance. We have great partners, a lot of people who have come on board with RPM. And the team has shown that they’re capable. Two years ago, Aric [Almirola] made the Chase, last year he barely missed it. They just really have to figure out these cars and what it takes to get them as competitive as they need to be.
Catanzareti: You’re 28 years old and stepping away from the sport. I can’t imagine this would be it for you in racing. Any other plans after this?
Scott: I don’t. I still love racing, I have a passion for it. I think I’m fairly decent at it. If opportunities come off to do a race here and there, I would certainly look at that and consider doing them.
Catanzareti: It’s the last race for Tony Stewart as well. Have you spoken to him this weekend?
Scott: I spoke to Tony last weekend, I haven’t seen him this weekend. I’m trying to give him his space and allow him to deal with the last race however he chooses. Normally, us as drivers, we all talk and I’m sure we’ll exchange some words on the driver introduction stage. Maybe even on the grid.
He’s a legend in our sport, we’ll miss him. We’re certainly all lucky that he’s staying involved with the race team. His involvement in NASCAR is a good thing.
Catanzareti: What has been your favorite moment in 2016? Or will Sunday be that moment?
Scott: My favorite moment of 2016, so far, was finishing second at Talladega. That was fun to have a good finish for this team. I felt like that team really deserved it. It was nice to see how that boosted the shop. And who knows, we’ll see what Sunday has in store.
Catanzareti: How much did you learn this frustrating season about yourself? As a driver?
Scott: I would say it’s been a lot more than a little frustrating year, it’s been extremely frustrating. Not just for myself, but for Richard Petty Motorsports, in general, not having the performance that we feel like we deserve, that we want to provide for our sponsors. Sometimes, it’s just that way. We see things in this sport of NASCAR that ebb and flow, you’ll see teams that are on top and then they, for some reason, lack a little speed.
Unfortunately for us, 2016 will be a year that the company will look back on and say, “You know, that’s just a year that we lacked speed and performance. We learned a lot that year and, ultimately, lessons learned that year are what caused us to get better.”
Catanzareti: One bright spot was last month at Talladega. When you finished second, did you know already that you were going to retire?
Scott: I made the decision the week before. I made the decision after Kansas. I notified the team, everybody, my family, that this was what God was calling me to do. We started making preparations to go through with it.
Catanzareti: What was the response like from the team? Did they know you were contemplating?
Scott: They were surprised. They respected my decision, they certainly understood it. Almost everybody in the NASCAR community, who’s been involved in NASCAR and has traveled as much as we do, they understand that struggle. It’s probably the number one thing that brings people off the road or gets people out of the sport. That time away from family and the grind of it all.
When you tell someone that you’re deciding to step away for those reasons, almost everybody in this sport at one time has considered it for those exact reasons.
Catanzareti: Has that respect extended to the entire garage area?
Scott: Yes. It’s been heartwarming to see that people really respect and admire me for deciding to put my family first. When I made the decision, I honestly thought there was going to be more backlash or people saying that I was just quitting and giving up. But overwhelmingly, it’s been in support of the decision and every gracious.
Catanzareti: What’s next for you? What are you going to do now that you’re retiring?
Scott: It’s family. I’m not retiring, I’m going to have to a career and work the rest of my life.
Catanzareti: Will you come out to Daytona next year?
Scott: I don’t know, I’m sure I’ll make to it some races. We’ll just have to play it by year.
Catanzareti: What are your thoughts on this racetrack as you wrap up your career?
Scott: I like Homestead because it’s worn out, chews tires up and the groove is everywhere from the bottom on new tires and passing slower cars to right against the fence if you’re in clean air and trying to maintain a long run. It’s fun, interesting and should be racy.