interview: meet scott lagasse jr.

Scott Lagasse Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)Scott Lagasse Jr. drives the No. 43 Ford Fusion for Baker Curb Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The 29-year-old Florida native is currently 10th in the point standings, one of only three Nationwide Series-only drivers in the top-10. This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway his Ford Fusion will sport the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

I learned about Scott last year and, I’m being completely honest here, I was taken with him because (1) he’s taller than most of the Nationwide Series drivers and (2) he looks like the guy I had a crush on when I was 19. But seriously, he’s a really talented driver that’s risen quickly through to ranks to make his way into the world of NASCAR racing.

I had the opportunity to ask him some questions and he was super nice. Here’s the result!

:)

Me: Who and/or what got you into racing?

Scott: My dad raced professionally for a lot of years and I guess you could say it naturally kind of happened but maybe in not so normal fashion as most people, or most other racers. I raced a lot of stuff, go-karts and motocross bikes, and then my dad bought himself a NASCAR Florida Modified. I was racing it for seat time for him and I convinced him to let me test it one day. I got in it, went really fast and convinced him to let me race it. I wasn’t even driving a regular car and I wasn’t old enough to be racing the thing, but I convinced him to let me race it and the first night I sat on the pole and won the race. It was a good first outing, for sure.

I did that and I kind of grew up building and working on the cars, that was the deal. I had to work on them to race and at the same time had to excel in school. I ended up going to college and racing on the weekends. Then on to the ASA series and from there I got, I guess you could say, my big break into the NASCAR ropes.

Me: So once you had that first win at St. Augustine, did it all of a sudden click in your head, “This is what I really want to do, I really want to be a NASCAR racecar driver?”

Scott: Ya know at that point in my life I was pretty young. There were a lot of things that interested me. I played sports. I played basketball a lot. Racing kept me pretty busy and I loved it and enjoyed it. I was winning everything I sat in, so it was easy to enjoy. Probably what really told me that I was going to do whatever it took to make it in this game and be the best at it was when I went off to college. I went away to school about an hour away from our shop. I found myself going over to other guys’ shops that I was going to race against and working on their cars, helping them. I did two years of that at University of Central Florida. I got my AA from there and moved back to finish up my college career at Flagler College and ran our ASA program. It was kind of neat because I graduated and signed my first contract all within the same period. So, I think I graduated on a Saturday and moved on a Sunday to Charlotte. So it was pretty neat.

Me: So was it really important to you to get that degree?

Scott: Yeah, it taught me a lot about who I am and I recommend it to a lot of young drivers who ask me what I thought about it. It was tough for sure because I would have my schedule set to where I would be in Orlando Sunday night through Wednesday afternoon and then I’d go back to St. Augustine, go back to the shop Thursdays through Sunday and then I’d race. We had to prep two cars. We’d race a dirt car and an asphalt car, so at that point I was forced to have a couple volunteers that really helped me out through that period. When it was all said and done and I graduated it was a real sense of accomplishment. And now the racing game is kind of easy because I only have one thing I have to focus on and I’m not all over the map.

Me: What are your goals for yourself and your team this year? What do you hope to achieve? What’s number one in your mind?

Scott: Number one in my mind is to win races. I mean, that’s without a doubt what we’re here for and if you’re not, I’ve always said that the day I don’t show up to race for that reason is the day that I’m going to quit. So that’s our goal for sure without a doubt. Right now, as a team and as a company we’ve just got to keep growing. There’s been a lot coming together in a short amount of time in regards to going from one car back up to two. And with that comes trying to get personnel and in the right places and getting cars built. It all came together kind of late which is really putting a lot of pressure on the guys and everyone in regards to getting stuff done and getting it done right. I’m excited for that reason that they’re all stepping up and working late nights, not too bad, but they’re putting in the hours that need to be put in to get us caught up and try to get ahead.

Me: So how do you handle that mentally? I’m always curious about that because in racecar driving there’s always this general pressure on everyone to perform and to prove themselves and to make a name for themselves. So how do you handle that mentally and not become too overwhelmed by the whole thing?

Scott: I’ve been very fortunate and I guess I’ve been told that everything kind of happens for a reason. I spent a couple years not racing a whole lot, not at the NASCAR level. I was racing other stuff. I signed a contract but I didn’t race as often as I thought I would. But I did get the opportunity to test against some Cup guys, they’re good guys, race winning guys, and for me that was really good because I went into those tests and instead of just trying to throw down a lap and prove that I was the better driver I did it in a very strategic way and at the end of the day I was very, very, very happy with the way they all went.

So for me I just try to make sure I do the same thing I’ve always done and then at the same time be open minded to how to get better. I’ll traditionally spend most of the week doing whatever, whatever needs to be done, and then come the day before practice or the night before I kind of shut the world off and then get into racer mode.

Me: How would you classify yourself as a racer? What would you say is your style? Or is there any driver you’ve ever pointed to and said, “I want to have a career like his?”

Scott: I’d say that a lot of people haven’t really experienced who I am as a racer yet. That’s something I’ve gone through over the last couple of years. I’ve kind of had my hands tied in a couple situations I was in where I wasn’t able to race the way I race. I’m a pretty simple, pretty easy individual in that regard to figure out. Everybody gets a clean slate and then I race them the way they race me. That’s how I was raised to race and that’s how I race no matter what it is I’m at right now.

Me: Since you’ve been in the Nationwide Series what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself and about racing?

Scott: Trust yourself. Trust your abilities, without a doubt. That kind of goes back to what I said a minute ago. I’ve let certain people kind of tell me how I should race and those people weren’t Jimmie Johnson. And I think every racer probably goes through that. Trust your abilities; trust what you know and what you’ve always done. The veterans of the sport are so great. Greg Biffle is a teammate of mine right now and if you ask questions he’ll answer them. There are a couple of guys that are like that so those are probably the two biggest things I’ve learned: to definitely trust yourself and your abilities and lean on the veterans, they’ll give you a lot of information.

Me: How would you describe yourself away from the track? Describe your personality.

Scott: Oooooh, that’s a hard one. It really kind of depends on the setting I’m in. I tend to be pretty laid back away from the race track, and I tend to be pretty laid back in a lot of regards, but I’m still ultra competitive in anything. But I do enjoy my time with my friends and my family.

Me: How would your friends describe you?

Scott: I would hope that they would say that I’m extremely loyal, even to a fault sometimes. I mean, that’s what I’d hope they’d say. I’ve had the same three or four friends since we were kids. It’s kind of a pretty cool, unique situation.

Me: So where would I find you away from the track? What are you passionate about when you’re not racing?

Scott: You’ll find me in a boat wakeboarding or at the beach. I love sports. I’m at the race shop and that’s about all I do.

Me: What’s the best thing about racing in the Nationwide Series?

Scott: For me, I like the competition. I like the fact that the Cup guys come down and run with us. I think the ultimate goal is to get to Cup, and not only just get there but to win races and be competitive there and challenge for Championships. So I like that it’s that competitive, that they come down and you know that they have teams that have been together for a while, so they’re very tough. But you learn a lot as a driver from them.

Follow Scott and his team on Twitter: @BCR43

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