For Brian Scott, it was all part of the plan.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series regular prepares to make his first career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a debut that's been in the works since he started planning his move to Richard Childress Racing almost a year ago. Scott will drive the No. 33 car in Saturday night's event.
"They knew all along and we knew all along -- at least our intentions were -- to not kind of be stuck in the Nationwide Series," said Scott, whose usual ride is RCR's No. 2 Nationwide car. "When we made that move to Richard Childress, we wanted some type of light at the end of the tunnel, the ability to make some starts in the Sprint Cup Series. It's something that's we've talked about, and we knew it was going to be later in the year this year."
RCR driver Austin Dillon, the current championship leader in the Nationwide Series, has driven the No. 33 car four times this season, most recently last month at Atlanta, and has a best finish in the vehicle of 11th at Michigan. Dillon, who is ticketed for the Sprint Cup circuit full-time next season, will also compete next week at Talladega Superspeedway in the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart, who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken right leg suffered in a sprint car accident over the summer.
The No. 33 was available for Charlotte, helping to make Scott's debut possible. The car will be sponsored by Shore Lodge, the family-owned company that is also the primary backer of Scott's Nationwide Series entry. Scott Naset will work as crew chief.
"We knew they needed to have the car availability, the wherewithal basically to put it together," Scott said. "And when Austin started running, and he went through some of the deals and the transitions he's going to be going though next year, I think that the inventory opened up. They have a more clear understanding and picture of what they need to do to run the No. 33 car, and they're not running it every week, so that puts some opportunities in front of us to be able to do that for Charlotte, and hopefully maybe another race or two this year."
A 25-year-old from Boise, Idaho, Scott is currently seventh in Nationwide points with 12 top-10s this season. His best finish is second at Indianapolis -- where Kyle Busch passed him in the final laps to win -- and at Richmond, where Brad Keselowski beat him on a late restart. Although Scott tested Sprint Cup cars regularly during previous stints with Joe Gibbs Racing and Ray Evernham's former team, he didn't get behind the wheel of a Generation-6 vehicle until a test at Charlotte in the No. 33 car on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.
That lack of experience tempers expectations. The best finish ever by a driver making his premier series debut at Charlotte is sixth, recorded by Bugs Stevens in the 1970 World 600. Nationwide driver Kyle Larson, who will take over Earnhardt Ganassi Racing's No. 42 car next year, will also make his Sprint Cup debut in Saturday night's event.
"Expectations are a hard thing when you're looking at an inaugural Sprint Cup Series start. Obviously the competitor inside each of us, and the competitor inside me, wants to go out there and have a good run, like a top-10 run. Yet I think everybody in this room including myself has enough knowledge of NASCAR to know the chances of that," Scott said.
"Everything would have to go perfect for a first start to have a top-10 finish. So instead, I want to say my expectations are, first and foremost, to stay on the lead lap. I think if you can stay on the lead lap, not go a lap down, that puts you in position for a lot of things. And second, I'd say a top 20 would be good, and a top 15 would be really, really great."
Scott said his plan for next year includes another full Nationwide season in the No. 2 car, with perhaps as many as five Sprint Cup events sprinkled in depending on sponsorship and car inventory. Although he's yet to reach Victory Lane, Scott believes he's taken a step forward in his first season with RCR.
"It's really reinvigorated me," he said. "... We've established a consistency this year that I think a lot of people didn't think I was capable of after a couple of hard seasons over at Joe Gibbs Racing. ? I think our performance has shown this year, we've performed at a higher level."
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Sprint Cup Series
- Richard Childress