Whether it’s a bicycle or a 200-mph stock car, Scott Lagasse Jr. loves to race. The St. Augustine driver grew up in a racing family, following his father, two-time Sports Car Club of America champion Scott Lagasse. Now he’s steering through a career that includes a full-time job in the Trans Am Racing Series, stock cars, racing trucks, dirt racers and sports cars. An avid bicyclist, Lagasse also is a colon cancer survivor and has championed the need for testing to each of his projects. Lagasse, who finished ninth in the NASCAR Truck Series road-course race on Aug. 16, also works tirelessly with the Florida Department of Transportation’s “Alert Today Alive Tomorrow” campaign to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety. Lagasse slowed down long enough to talk about what’s around the next turn.
The finish at Daytona seemed improbable since your team, On Point Motorsports, had never posted a Top-10 finish. How did that feel?
It was a fun deal. It was a small team. Literally, everyone on the team called me afterwards and thanked me and said that was a win for them. It was their first Top 10. It’s really a great group of guys and gals that are underfunded. That was a proud one, for sure. Those are the ones you like the most — when you run better than you should run. I wanted more at the end, but they needed to get that truck through there without a scratch on it, so I was ultra conservative and let a couple guys go that were wheel-hopping and going to wreck us.
Is there anything you don’t like to drive?
I love it and I enjoy the challenge of new things. I’m not a road-racer, certainly not a traditional road-racing trained. I’m doing that now and I’m loving it. I want to get back in a dirt car soon and go race that. You look at the guys you admire from a racing standpoint, it’s the guys who are good at everything. There are very, very few of them that have won across all different types of racing. To me, that’s a huge deal. There are different skill sets for each one. It’s fun.
Your love of cycling may have saved your life since one day you felt discomfort on the seat that turned out to be colon cancer. Explain how all that happened.
I didn’t even tell my mother about my surgery until the day I had it. It really wasn’t like I was trying to keep it secret, but I figured everyone has their own little battles. I didn’t realize it could be inspiring for other people. I was lucky. If I hadn’t been cycling, I wouldn’t have found it.
You also are one of FDOT’s leading advocates for cycling and pedestrian safety, especially the use of helmets. Since cycling has become so popular since the COVID-19 pandemic started, is there a greater concern to make sure riders are being properly fitted with helmets and bicycles?
Absolutely. It’s hard to keep cycling equipment on the shelves because it’s become so popular. That’s why it’s so important to think about safety. I’ve been involved with “Alert Today Alive Tomorrow” for a long time. I’ve made hundreds of appearances for them because it’s an important message. My goal is to get everyone to take a couple extra seconds to think about the safety of others on the road. In 2015, we started a 60-mile Champions Ride for Bicycle Safety during SpeedWeeks at Daytona. It’s amazing because many of the drivers, NASCAR officials and celebrities participate, including Jimmie Johnson.
You don’t seem to stay with one racing discipline for a long time because you said you want to be able to compete at any level. Who are the drivers you respect as “complete” racers?
Smoke (Tony Stewart). You look at Jimmie (Johnson). Those two always ring true to me because they’ve been great to me in my career. They’re very real people that never forgot where they came from. You look at the different types of things they’ve won races in and what they’re doing — Jimmie’s going to go run IndyCars (next year). That’s crazy at this point in his career. I know how serious he’ll be about it. He’ll be competitive. That’s a major step. There’s nothing similar between the two skill sets. You look at those kinds of guys. You look at (Kyle) Larson right now. From a driver’s standpoint, he’s winning everything. It doesn’t matter what you put him in. Obviously, Kyle made a huge mistake. But from a driver’s standpoint, he’s incredible. I watched my dad make the transition from road-racing to oval tracks and do well. I’ve always said that’s what I want to do. I want to go win in everything. It’s hurt me in my career, I’m sure — going road-racing instead of staying in a NASCAR deal, or choosing dirt-racing instead of staying on the NASCAR side, but I’m loving life and pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished. I want to accomplish more, no doubt.
So what’s ahead for you?
I don’t know what’s next. The road-race program right now with M1 chassis (in Trans Am) and all has really been a neat experience for me. I’ve not had to ever wear as many hats that I have to right now, whether it be helping young kids run well. We’re working with Sam Mayer in the GM Group’s Driver’s Edge to train their young drivers. Sam is a shoe. I enjoy that. I’m enjoying not traveling 35 or 40 weeks a year. I’ve got great thing with this road-racing program. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great group of guys. It’s people I want to be around all the time. It makes it fun and easy.
How do you manage to fit it all in?
I get caught pretty thin at times. I’m very lucky to have the wife (Kelley) I have and the kids that I have. They’re understanding. I tend to jump in with both feet when I get into something. I don’t lose well, and surely not for long. My main focus is the road-racing program with M1 chassis, the Trans Am Series. It’s got huge growth potential. It’s a great model. I enjoy the heck out of it. I’ll still do the NASCAR stuff. On Point wanted me to go race with them, and I did. There will be some more races, hopefully with them. Anything I can drive, I will.