Scott Pruett says sensible diet, patience are key at Rolex 24

Scott Pruett will call it a career after this weekend's Rolext 24 At Daytona. AP Photo/John Raoux

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Scott Pruett knows a thing or two or 100 about the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a 24-hour sports car race that kicks off the international motorsports schedule.

He first competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1985. He will compete for the 28th time in the 2018 version, which will be the last time he competes as a race car driver.

Some drivers might want to go out with a little easier, less grueling affair. But the 57-year-old Pruett, who has won the race five times, can't think of a more appropriate setting to leave. Daytona isn't just a place where he has won in sports cars, he won the 1991 International Race of Champions event at the track. And he also finished 19th in the 2000 Daytona 500.

He will drive a Lexus in the race, which starts Saturday afternoon, and has to prepare for three or four stints in the car, which typically can go anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours. No driver can do more than four hours over a six-hour span and no driver can do more than 13 hours during the event.

Pruett has seen and experienced just about everything in the twice-around-the-clock race on the 3.56-mile road course, which uses much of the NASCAR oval as well as a portion of the infield between Turns 1 and 2. So ESPN.com asked Pruett on how to best go about competing in the 24-hour race.

Here are the highlights.

Don't eat anything that you will taste when you burp

"If you burp it, you don't want to be smelling it," Pruett said. "Onions. Chili. It definitely doesn't work out. ... I certainly know guys who have had hamburgers that have had onions on them and they're just regretting it. They're hating life halfway through a stint."

Keep the food simple

Pruett says he doesn't have a go-to food as far as what he must eat during the race.

"I've focused on simple foods," Pruett said. "Pastas, stuff that can be good calories."

If you haven't already started loading up on Pedialyte, you're in trouble

"As soon as I get out of the car, ... I'm 10 minutes out of the car, pushing fluids back in," Pruett said.

Even if you have three firesuits, make sure to take off and get your racing gear in an area where it will dry before your next stint

"You get out of all your Nomex underwear and get out of your suit, and you immediately send it off and you don't wash it, you just dry it," Pruett said. "You'll have multiple sets of underwear and multiple suits.

"It's a lot nicer getting in when you're dry than when you're soaking wet, especially if it's cold."

Good thing for drivers with wet suits this weekend? AccuWeather says it won't get below 60 degrees. There could be some rain, though, Sunday.

If your suit isn't dry and you need to get back in the car ...

"You get back in that thing, and it's nasty and wet and horrible," Pruett said. "You just get in and start sweating again."

Don't retaliate

"The biggest thing for IndyCar and NASCAR drivers is realizing this is a 24-hour race and realizing that you're going to see the craziest stuff happening and drivers doing the most stupid things you can imagine, and you cannot get caught up with taking revenge on anybody at any time," Pruett said.

"With a lot of teammates I've had over the years, that's something [hard to do]. ... You can't go back after them because all you're doing is you're hurting your chances for getting to victory lane."

Don't be a hero in the opening hours of the race

"In days gone by, you'd know those guys are going to have tore-up race cars because they're driving over everything, hitting everything and you just shake your head," Pruett said. "Three hours later, here they are having issues, having problems."

If you're sick or struggling, hand off the wheel to another driver

The good teams have teammates who are talented drivers. So don't hurt the team, Pruett said.

"You've got three other guys who will jump in and take over, so take yourself out of thinking it as an individual and focus on the team. For a driver, that's tough. It's really difficult because [a driver thinks] I'm tough, I'm macho."

Don't be surprised if you do get sick during the race

"I've had numerous teammates that have [had] something [that] didn't sit well and got sick," Pruett said. "It's not uncommon for guys to get sick during that race. I'm not sure if it's what they ate, whether they're not used to being in [the car] three hours, being out three hours, being in three hours."

Do what your body tells you when it comes to sleep

"For me, I never really sleep," Pruett said. "I consider it nap. I'm pretty frosty all the time, so in case they need me, I'm right there. I wouldn't say you totally deep sleep. That's just me.

"All the drivers I know does it a little differently with what works best for them."

Get out of the pit stall after debriefing with the team

A driver isn't going to work on the car, so it's best if a driver prepares for the next stint.

"Get out of there -- you need to be hydrating, you need to do all those things you need to do after being in a car for three hours to get ready and be as good as you can be when you're called again," Pruett said.

Pruett said he made this mistake decades ago, but it also was a time when drivers were often sleeping in vans rather than motorhomes.

"I'd be sitting with the guys watching the car going by, going by, going by, going by," Pruett said. "And then getting called to go back in, and I'm going, 'Wow, I didn't get a chance to rest and hydrate.'"

If you have to sleep in a van ...

"Ear plugs are a must," Pruett said. "And find something that is at least soft and somewhere it's dark."