TAMPA - When Zephyrhills' David Reutimann competed in the Craftsman Truck Series a few years ago, he drove for driving legend Darrell Waltrip's North Carolina-based team.
Land O' Lakes' Scotty Crockett is pursuing a NASCAR career an entirely different way. He's driving for a team that's owned and housed locally. Even the pit crew is made up mostly of "local boys."
CigarCity Motorsports, which will make its second truck series appearance tonight at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park, is a partnership of Crockett and local businessmen Gary Wright and Chuck Scott.
Mario Gosselin, a Lake Wales-based driver and Crockett's crew chief, holds the NASCAR owners license.
"Our goal is to take it to the elite," Crockett, 28, said this week at the Tampa headquarters of PresGar Companies, a medical imaging company of which Wright is president and CEO and Scott is senior vice president of operations.
"I'd like to build our team up to where we can do a Sprint Cup deal or have Chuck and Gary manage me."
Crockett isn't known in NASCAR circles. He made his truck series debut last month at Mansfield, Ohio, and, driving the truck that won last year at Mansfield with Dennis Setzer, qualified 12th and finished 23rd.
It was a respectable effort for someone with no series experience.
"The goal this year is Scotty has to pass NASCAR standards to keep moving up to a super speedway," said Scott, the team manager. "Mansfield is a bull ring where everybody gets booted out of the way, and Scotty kept his nose clean. Other than Landon Cassill running into the back of us, there wasn't a dent on the truck."
Crockett plans to enter the truck races at Kentucky, Nashville, Atlanta and Homestead, then run the series full-time next year.
He's also competing in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, the short-track series that helped launch the careers of Brian Vickers, Joey Logano and others. He has made three starts in the series as a rookie and was leading one of his races when he got black-flagged because his tail pipe came loose.
"He's really done a good job on the occasions he's run with us," Pro Cup series director Tony Cox said. "He's certainly a level-headed driver as far as not putting himself in bad situations."
The son of a former driver and auto body man and the grandson of a former track operator in Tennessee, Crockett has been racing late models and super late models for years.
He met Wright and Scott through his Land O' Lakes auto body business. Wright's hobby is "retro mod" muscle-car refurbishments, and Crockett was doing some of the customizations.
The three, in partnership with Gosselin, purchased four trucks from defunct Spears Racing. Crockett prepares the trucks at his Land O' Lakes shop and at Gosselin's Lake Wales shop.
"Scotty's not your typical driver," said Scott, referring to Crockett's ability to set up his own truck and give useful feedback to his crew chief while at the track.
"I do everything you can think of on it," Crockett said.
PresGar Companies, a private company owned and run by Wright, has 30 outpatient imaging facilities, including about a dozen in Florida. According to Wright, it does $65 million to $70 million in annual revenues.
Now Wright and Scott are in the racing business.
"Basically, we run the business end of it, and Scotty runs the shop end of it, and we treat it just like we treat our health-care business in putting in resources, marketing, sales and things like that," Scott said.
The prospect of CigarCity Motorsports making it to the Sprint Cup level is a long shot. Small teams don't have much of a place in NASCAR's top level anymore. Most of those that try don't last long.
But as Crockett points out, there's no penalty for dreaming big.
"We're working at this every day," Crockett said. "There's never a time when one of us isn't thinking about what we're trying to do for the next step.
"It takes a lot of will and heart and drive to do it. None of us ever quits."