Richard Petty Motorsports’ Brian Scott nearly pulled off an upset Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway.
After hovering in the top-five for the latter stages of Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500, a caution sending the race into NASCAR overtime found Scott second for the restart, next to leader Joey Logano and ahead of friend Denny Hamlin.
That friendship with Hamlin paid off with drafting help from the Joe Gibbs Racing driver that sealed a career-best second place finish for Scott in his rookie Sprint Cup season.
“Well, a good finish always helps,” said Scott after the race. “It helps with the team. It helps with the guys at the shop, the morale. Just trying to get any bit of a bright spot in this year has been difficult. I think that this is by far the brightest spot that we’ve had in a really challenging 2016 for Richard Petty Motorsports.
“I don’t know, I guess the results and what this does for us going forward is yet to be determined. But just proud. I mean, the guys have worked hard all year. They’ve deserved a lot better finishes than we’ve given them. Just proud to deliver a good, solid top-five, to do my job behind the wheel to give us a shot at the win, just have a good day for Richard Petty Motorsports”
Before Scott’s career-best finish Sunday, Scott has had a disappointing first year at the sport’s highest level. And Scott will easy admit that. However, Sunday’s finish surpassing a then season high 12th at Auto Club Speedway in March puts things into perspective for his RPM team with four races remaining.
“We had a team meeting before the race. We knew that we were going to have to be perfect,” said Scott. “We were going to have to have no mistakes on pit road, gonna have to have a fast Ford, keep good track position all day and try to make friends throughout the race so they would work with us at the end, and our game plan was really just executed really well.”
Scott didn’t take advantage of the coveted “Big One” — to find himself in contention for the win, Scott worked for it and earned it. After starting 25th, the Boise, Idaho native quietly maneuvered through the field and into the top-five nearing Lap 50 and found himself a factor at the front for the remaining 142 laps.
“We had a really solid car,” he said. “Roush Yates Engines were amazing today and we were able to show our speed to a lot of the field, and when it came down to the finish or the restart there at the end.”
The 28-year-old driver had concerned about potentially being ganged up by his other competitors on the final restart, but those worries never came to fruition.
“When you have a yellow sticker on your bumper, normally people avoid you like the plague,” Scott admitted. “They go elsewhere. There were a lot of opportunities. I thought that guys tried to do it. Had a great spotter in Stevie Reeves. Was able to block and do the right things to keep our Goody’s Ford with good track position towards the front.
“It was exciting at the end, and, yes, I felt at any moment at the end somebody was going to try to hang me.”