Scott Pruett, Coming Back From Severe Injuries, Wins IROC Opener
Less than a year after being hospitalized with critical injuries suffered in an accident in West Palm Beach, Fla., Scott Pruett came back Friday and defeated 11 of the world’s leading drivers in the opening race of the 15th International Race of Champions at Daytona International Raceway.
Pruett suffered a shattered left ankle, two broken knees and a broken back in the 135-m.p.h. crash while testing last March. He did not sit in a car again until October and the IROC was his second race. He drove a Jaguar during the 24 Hours of Daytona, but it did not finish.
“I can’t put into words how happy I am,” Pruett said after beating NASCAR veteran Bill Elliott to the finish line in the 40-lap, 100-mile race for identically prepared Dodge Daytonas. “It’s been a long road back through the therapy, a lot of long hours. But today made it all worthwhile.”
Pruett, a former road racing champion, also won an IROC race in 1988 at Riverside International Raceway.
Al Unser, who also suffered leg injuries in a racing accident last year, finished third, just ahead of his son, Indy car champion Al Jr. Tommy Kendall, the Trans-Am champion making his IROC debut, finished fifth.
Dale Earnhardt, defending IROC champion and favored to win on the high-banked Daytona track, spun out into the infield in mid-race after tangling with Elliott while racing down the back straightaway.
The second of the series will be run May 4 at Talladega, Ala.