It’s our pleasure to welcome a new, fourth Driver Diary contributor to Frontstretch – Scott Speed. This season has seen the former Formula 1 driver from Team Red Bull burst onto the stock car scene, winning races in both the ARCA and Craftsman Truck Series as he prepares for a possible move up the ladder to Sprint Cup. And the way this native Californian is running, we’re going to see that promotion sooner rather than later.
In his first diary entry for Frontstretch, Speed brings our Tony Lumbis “up to speed” on his quick education in stock car racing, his chase for an ARCA title, and going from the precision of F1 to… dirt?
The last few weeks have definitely been filled with many learning experiences. In the Truck Series, I made my first start at Bristol Motor Speedway in the No. 22 Red Bull Toyota for Bill Davis Racing. We had great success there, as I won my first Craftsman Truck Series pole and finished third.
I will tell you that Bristol is one of my new favorite racetracks. The place is incredible with how all the seats surround the entire place – there is no other venue like it. The racing was great as well. It’s close to a two-groove racetrack, and the competition is exciting. I’m looking forward to going back there next year. For now, though, our next focus for the Truck Series will be on Las Vegas, where I will make my next start on September 20th.
Meanwhile, in the ARCA series I’ve had a learning experience of a whole different kind. Twice a year, the series hits the dirt within about two weeks of each other at the Illinois and DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. I can’t quite compare dirt-track racing to anything I’ve done before in my career – and to tell you the truth, it was really quite frustrating. The driving was great when everything was going right, but many of those other guys have the dirt-track background and could keep up with the changes better. Honestly though, it is very slow and the speeds are really down in the corners. It’s just not as exciting as going fast. We actually ended up finishing eighth both times after running about 10th–15th most of each race. But even that top-10 performance is disappointing when you normally run in the top three [every week].
Now that the dirt tracks are behind us, we are sitting on a 75-point lead over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. [for the ARCA title] with five races remaining. To be honest, we should have a much bigger lead, but the No. 99 has finished every single race except for one, maybe two this season – while we’ve had a few events where something broke or someone wrecked us. We should be competitive at every track coming up on the schedule, though, so I am not too worried about it. Regardless of whether we win the championship or not, it’s not going to mean anything to my future career. It’s not going to make or break me or determine when I get into the Cup car for the first time. It’s just about getting experience. In every race, I try to learn as much as possible – regardless of what happens in the points.
It definitely has been an interesting summer in terms of the schedule that I ran. I had about two months off in between my Truck starts, but I certainly kept busy in between those races. Of course, I kept busy with the ARCA schedule, but to tell you the truth, I actually prefer the truck and the CoT because they are stiffer, and my input as a driver needs to be more precise. The ARCA car is a bit slower. When I’m not driving or testing, I’m hanging around the Sprint Cup garage on those weekends where my schedule has me at the same location they are. During the race, I make it a point to listen to AJ Allmendinger and Brian Vickers so I can have a better feel of what is going on there. The more knowledge you have, the better driver you’re going to be.
On that same note, if I can’t get to the track, there are still other ways that I keep in touch with what is going on. My house is near the shop, and I spend a lot of time there working with the engineers. In fact, we have a competition meeting every Tuesday morning, which definitely keeps me in the loop in terms of what is going on over there.
So it definitely has been a busy summer, but the season is not done yet. Look for me in the No. 2 Eddie Sharp Racing Red Bull Toyota in the ARCA series this month as we look to finish out the year strong. We also have some more events in the Truck Series ahead, so there are still plenty more opportunities to win in 2008!