The Frontstretch: Beyond the Cockpit: Scott Speed, Speeding Towards Uncertainty by Tony Lumbis -- Wednesday February 9, 2011

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Beyond the Cockpit: Scott Speed, Speeding Towards Uncertainty

NASCAR Driver Q & A · Tony Lumbis · Wednesday February 9, 2011


For the past two seasons, Scott Speed has been a participant in our Driver Diary series, providing readers with insight into what was going on in his life both on and off the track. Unfortunately, 2011 will be quite a bit different for the open-wheel convert as he starts the season without a ride. We don’t believe that Scott will be on the sidelines for long, however, and our own Tony Lumbis checked in with the California native to talk about his unceremonious departure from Red Bull Racing and what lies ahead.

Tony Lumbis, As the 2010 drew to a close, you consistently answered questions about your future in the same manner: “They haven’t told me anything yet.” It seemed a little strange given the fact that your future was being determined for you by rumors on every site. In the end, it turns out, you were being as open as you could be. Can you elaborate on what turned out to be a very odd ending to your tenure at Red Bull Racing?

Scott Speed: We all had a clue that they might do something, I just had no idea what the details were since they made their decisions without having any conversation with me other than “good luck.” Brian’s situation was unknown, I guess until the last race. So, I knew there was a possibility that I didn’t have a ride but still thought they would come up with something. Instead they held me under contract all year, which did not allow me to talk to anyone else.

Lumbis: It has been reported that there was a clause in your contract that stated if you were not in the top 16 in points by your second season (2010), the team could release themselves from their obligation to you. Is that a legitimate out on their side in your opinion, and how did you feel initially when you signed that contract?

Speed: I can’t talk about the contract until it goes into the lawsuit, which it will in probably the next couple of weeks. I will say that if it was as simple as that, I wouldn’t be spending thousands and thousands of dollars on lawyers to fight this thing.

Lumbis: The reports are saying that the lawsuit is over lost salary. Can you confirm that?

Speed: Yes, it is over the three years of salary related to the option I signed last May.

Lumbis: So in May, all indications were that you were going to be back with the team and by November, that had all changed?

Speed: Yes, exactly. Basically, I signed my contract in May and I guess they had the privilege to wait until whenever they wanted to, to let me go.

Scott Speed enjoyed his tenure with Red Bull Racing, but admits he remains bitter over a rocky divorce between the two last Fall.

Lumbis: Now that your tenure at RBR has come to the conclusion, even though it wasn’t the end that you wanted, looking back at your two years with the Red Bull Sprint Cup team, how would you rate your experience there?

Speed: It was good and I certainly enjoyed it. I feel satisfied that we were able to run well when the stuff was right, especially in the beginning of 2010 before they went to the spoiler. I felt really satisfied about how competitive we were and my progress in the Cup series and NASCAR in general.

Lumbis: There was a discrepancy in performance between ARCA, where you dominated the field on a consistent basis, and versus when you got to Cup when you endured some struggles. Obviously some of that is expected with two different levels of drivers and cars. With that in mind, do you wish you had another year or two in the Nationwide or Truck series?

Speed: Not even in hindsight, as at the time it would have been ideal for us to wait a little bit longer before moving me up. But with the situation at the end of ‘08 with A.J. (Allmendinger) and the team parting ways, it just worked out that it was time to put me in the car. Everybody knew it was probably a little bit early, but in hindsight, I don’t think it affected much. I think I would have been at the same point that I was at last year either way.

Lumbis: How does not having a ride impact your off-season?

Speed: It’s certainly a lot different. I never had a manager or a marketing team or any of that stuff. That was all handled through Red Bull. We’re just now in the process of nailing down who we want to represent us and how we want to structure myself for sponsors and teams. So it’s definitely been a good process.

Lumbis: You mentioned that you have always had someone to represent you through the team. It is important for people to remember that you weren’t just with Red Bull for the past two years. You have been with them for the past several years in different racing series and have not had to worry about representation for most of your professional driving career.

Speed: Yes, I think I’m one of the longest motorsports athletes they’ve ever been involved with.

Lumbis: Does that make the split even worse, knowing that you were with them for all those years but were only given two years to prove yourself in NASCAR?

Speed: Honestly, I’m quite bitter over the situation. When I talked to the bosses in Austria, they thought it was OK for them to contract me all year long and have the right to do with me what they wanted at the end of the year and walk away scot free. The contract apparently didn’t matter.

Lumbis: What are your considerations for 2011? Obviously a full-time competitive Sprint Cup ride would be ideal, but what other options would you be willing to pursue?

Speed: I have a lot of options on the board, but obviously my first priority is not to put myself in a position where I am just racing to race. If I get in a race car, I want to win. I’ve spoken to a lot of friends and other drivers with whom I’ve gotten close to over the years for advice and I feel that the best situation is to wait it out until the right situation arises.

Lumbis: A lot of drivers have the theory to take a start-and-park ride just to keep their name and presence in the garage area so that they are not forgotten about. But you’re not buying into that theory?

Speed: Yep. We’ve got to do things to keep my name out there too, but I think we can get creative and find a way to get me into a competitive race car.

Lumbis: Would you consider going back to open-wheel racing?

Speed: Not yet, I don’t think. If the right situation came up, sure. But for 2011, there is no right situation. Ultimately though, I really want to spend the next couple years racing stock cars.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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NASCAR Mailbox: A ‘Normal’ Saturday And A Valuable Lesson
Beyond the Cockpit: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher
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IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
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02/09/2011 06:53 AM

If Scott wants to win in whatever series he races, he should look to the trucks, or possibly ARCA again.
Furthermore, he should have been served notice that Red Bull were fully capable of dumping a driver regardless of that driver’s improvement, when they unceremoniously dumped AJ in order to give Scott the ride.

02/09/2011 11:25 AM

I gotta agree with “Jacob.” Though no fault of his own at all. Speed might have seen this coming as Red Bull did this to AJ. But Spped was in the inner circle then and got the ride. Unfortunately he did to AJ what was done to him later. Could he have done differently? I doubt it. Anyone with a resume in racing to get a chance to do Cup can’t hesitate.

All that said I personally am not right with the way he was treated, at least what is in the public eye. He wasn’t that bad off and I think he is a racer, whcih is different of course than a driver. I would have liked to see him get a chance to sprout his wings and win. He is fast, as fast as anyone in the cockpit for 4-5 laps. But what he misses and wasn’t given a chance to develop is the skill to be fast for 500-600 miles or laps. I don’t give a dam about what F-1 is or what IndyCar is, to be up front and win at the Cup level is a different skill. I am not saying better but different. Geezzuzchrist F-1 is limited to about 90-100 minutes per race. What the hell is that? Fours hours in a hot car is where the champions are born that win in this series. It’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I don’t see Danica really ever making it in Cup. She is not gonna be able to perform at a high level for 600 miles. Period.

But this is about Scott Speed. I wish him the best and hope to see him in a top ride in a year or two. At least I would like to see what he really has. You know JPM is from F-1 and a world class racer. Yet he is only on the verge of knowing what it takes to win a long-distance Cup oval race. His win last year at Watkins Glen was the best I have seen him perform since he came into Cup. He can do this. Yet I have seen him give out, give up and let possible wins get away because he is hard headed. Once he gets control of that he will win and it will be fun to watch. And that’s what I would like to see from Scott Speed. He has it but can he develop it?

02/09/2011 03:51 PM

I agree Ed, and with F1 (since Scott never ran IndyCar) winning is all about the car. Any driver can win races and championships, if only they get placed in the right car. In NA$CAR, all cars are theoretically equal, and the drivers make the difference.
I don’t think Scott would have been championship caliber from what I’ve seen, but he knows that he can prove (or disprove) his personal talent in stock cars in a way he never could in F1. I do think, however, that he could run for multiple championships in IndyCar.

02/09/2011 07:46 PM

Jacob you are correct all the way around. It takes a special talent in a Cup car to be a champion.

I have been around this stuff for nearly 50 years, first as a fan, then a vendor at a race track, then a weekend warrior on a top team, then a writer for a major racing magazine. And it was with the magazine in 2001 that a rookie Kurt Busch took me for 3 laps around CMS in a Roush car with his rookie-white helmet during the Jan. media tour. And after all the years I had seen this sport up close (burned hands; 120 octane spilled on me in the days before the catch can man; and all the disappointments from coming close to winning) I could say that 2001 January day that I was amazed at just how hard this sport is…Three laps at 95% speed with no other cars around us…I just imagined what it would be like with 42 others dam well nearby and for 400 laps! This sport is dam tough. Too bad Speed got to see the political underbelly before he could show his skills.

02/09/2011 07:54 PM

I feel bad for Scott, but believe that in the long run this will be the best thing for him. What Scott needs to do is focus on 2012 and I believe that his future rests in Indy Car. Scott would be a perfect fit in Indy Car with his personality and he has the ability to run up front from the get go. F1 and Nascar are the same in the fact that only a couple of teams have the resources to win and unless you are on one of those teams you are not going to win. What killed Scott was that he was out runned by his team mate. The first guy you have to beat in both F1 and Nascar is your team mate and if you can’t beat him the team will lose faith in you quickly (unless your last name is Earnhardt). I truly hope that he looks at Indycars because they are on the rise with tons of changes coming in 2012. Scott could be a champion their much like Dario.