Brian Scott thought the moment would have come by now. But his Sprint Cup debut Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway serves as a reminder that his NASCAR career might finally be pointed in the direction he hopes after a brief deviation from the path.
Content, he said, and competitive, the 25-year-old will return for a second full season next year at Richard Childress Racing after what he considers two unfulfilling campaigns at Joe Gibbs Racing. Scott has three top-5s and 12 top-10s through 29 of 33 races this season, strikingly similar to his season averages in two seasons at JGR, but far fewer DNFs (one with RCR, 12 with JGR). He has led 254 laps after leading 23 combined in two seasons in the No. 11 Toyota.
Granted, 239 of those laps led came this fall at Richmond, when Scott was overtaken on a late restart by Brad Keselowski -- illegally, Scott contended -- and denied his first win in NASCAR's top-tier developmental series.
"When I got into the sport, I guess I didn't anticipate this long to be making my Sprint Cup start or have a chance," Scott said. "I thought my learning curve in the Truck series was very fast, and I feel like I had a couple unproductive years in the Nationwide Series, and I feel like this year, coming over to Richard Childress Racing, we've been able to capitalize on things I learned in past seasons that didn't really pay off or show in performance with the troubles we had mechanically in both my years at Joe Gibbs Racing, the DNFs and things of that nature.
"It's been nice to get a good start to the season and just work on consistency and performance and getting up front and battling for wins. It certainly has reignited my passion."
Scott said he was "kind of beaten down" after two season at JGR but was rejuvenated by running five Truck series races at the end of 2012 for Kyle Busch Motorsports, winning at Phoenix. Scott's other NASCAR win came in 2009 in Trucks for his family team.
"I thought running those five Truck races at the end of last year, when we won at Phoenix and we ran up front, was a beneficial as anything," he said. "And just making the change and getting a new crew and working on setups has helped me a lot."
Scott said that while he was a fit personally at JGR, performance never materialized.
"They were fun. We had a good group. We just didn't click," he said. "I don't know why. I got along with the guys, but our performance on the racetrack never clicked. We could never establish ourselves as an upfront contender on a regular basis, and that was frustrating because after my Truck series [experience], I felt like I was personally there.
"I felt like I could run up there. After two years and not running up front a lot at Gibbs, where you're kind of expected to do it, obviously you start doubting yourself and wondering a lot of things, and I think the people around me could sense that and I think that's why we put together the trick deal to run some races to work on my confidence. We knew we really needed to find a different situation that we could click and have the performance on the racetrack. I really think that happened making the switch to RCR."
Scott came to RCR with the understanding that he was eager to race in Sprint Cup, and the start Saturday in a No. 33 Chevrolet run five times by Austin Dillon has been "a season in the making," Scott said. The car is technically owned by Circle Sport Racing but will be run by RCR personnel because of a multilevel alliance between the teams.
"When I made the move to Richard Childress Racing, we started talking right at the onset about my aspiration to make some starts and to try to get into the Sprint Cup series," said Scott, who would tie a career-best NASCAR points finish by holding on to seventh in the Nationwide standings. "Richard understood that. Obviously, with the Gen-6 car and the Chevrolet SS coming into the sport, it took them a while to get their inventory and really feel like they had the capacity to where they were ready to handle that."
Scott, who will return to RCR's No. 2 Nationwide program next season, said there is a possibility he could contest more Cup races this season, and plans are in motion to run a smattering in 2014. There will be no added pressure in making his Cup debut in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he said.
"I think in this sport, no matter what, there is pressure involved, especially when you move up to that division," he said. "Obviously, I feel like the drivers in the Chase, you have to pay special attention.
"You don't want to ruin anybody's Chase chances in a first race. And they're all very focused and the intensity is turned up for them, so I feel like the competition level will be a little raised. I don't know if it adds any pressure or changes my mindset. I think my mindset would be the same, with everything that comes with that."