Though everyone in NASCAR enjoys coming to Florida for the Daytona 500 and the Cup Series’ biggest event, the humidity and atmosphere hit crew chief Billy Scott a little differently.
“It feels like home,” Scott said.
That’s because the Land O’ Lakes High alumnus sat in the Daytona International Speedway grandstands for a race or two every year when he was growing up in Pasco County (where he still has a lot of extended family).
Here are five things to know about Scott, the crew chief for Tyler Reddick in the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota:
His love for motorsports started early
Scott was 5 when he started racing. He drove three-wheelers in Dade City and sped around the motocross track his dad built in the backyard. His progression from go-karts to cars helped push him to his future career.
Scott’s go-karting seasons ended with a trip to North Carolina, and his family would stick around Charlotte to tour NASCAR shops. The crews were accommodating as they showed Scott the craftsmanship that went into their work. Those visits took place as Scott was moving up to cars, where he’d have to build the Mustang or Camaro himself.
“It just kind of all tied together,” Scott said.
His journey to NASCAR had a stop at USF
After Scott graduated from Land O’Lakes in 1995, he studied mechanical engineering at USF for two years but stopped as he continued to race. Eventually, he transitioned to the other side of the wall and got a job changing tires for a Truck Series team. His mechanical work led to an epiphany.
“Having done it on my own, I realized I had interest in the set-up side,” Scott said.
The coursework from USF provided the start he needed to graduate from Charlotte and climb into engineering roles before he got his first shot at being a crew chief.
His stable of drivers hasn’t been, well, stable
Scott’s profile on racing-reference.info lists him as the crew chief for 11 different drivers through his first eight seasons, plus Reddick this year. His resume begins with Brian Vickers (three top-5 finishes together in 2014) and includes Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and former series champion Kurt Busch (who gave Scott his two career Cup victories in ‘18 and ‘22). Others cycled in because of injuries or team decisions.
“I’ve learned to adapt because I’ve had so many ...” Scott said. “At some point, you’ve got to learn just what they’re after. I think that’s the biggest first step, is trying to understand them and trying to put yourself in their shoes and kind of know what makes them tick, what their focus is on, what they feel are their strong suits and shortcomings and trying to kind of play to that.”
One of his bosses is basketball legend Michael Jordan
Jordan teamed up with NASCAR veteran Denny Hamlin — who was born in Tampa — to launch 23XI Racing. The team hired Scott last year when it added a second car, the No. 45. Hamlin is, understandably, more hands-on than Jordan, but Scott said the NBA icon’s fierce competitiveness is contagious.
“You can see his fingerprints on it,” Scott said. “You can feel it. People enjoy just being a part of something he is supporting and building.”
His team is poised for a big year
23XI Racing won twice last year, and the No. 45 car finished 10th in the owner standings despite being driven by three different racers. This year, that machine will be driven by Reddick, who had a breakthrough 2022 at Richard Childress Racing; his three wins trailed only Chase Elliott and Joey Logano.
“We feel like we’ve already got a good base — way more than we had last year at this point,” Scott said. “Then you bring in Tyler, who is already a proven winner in these cars, as well. We have everything we need. … Everything’s pointed in the right direction.”
2:30 p.m. Sunday, Daytona International Speedway