It’s been yet another eventful month in the life of Scott Speed. Speed entered the ARCA series finale at Toledo with a sizable points lead, before a memorable altercation with his closest rival, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., ended his chances of taking home the crown. The following week, the rookie made his much-anticipated Sprint Cup debut at the Martinsville Speedway in the No. 84 Red Bull Camry.
Speed took a break out of his busy schedule to tell us why he wouldn’t tolerate Stenhouse’s on-track behavior, explain his early struggles at NASCAR’s top level and to enlighten us about his bull riding experience in the middle of it all.
I knew there was going to be trouble right from the very start of the race with Ricky [Stenhouse]. We were only 50 laps in when he was behind us and beating the heck out of our back bumper. At that point in time, I felt it was too early and we didn’t need that one position to win the championship, we just needed to finish. So our team asked the No. 99 spotter to go around us on the restart. Then one of the restarts, we tried to let him by and he basically just crashed us, it was pretty blatant.
At that time however, we really didn’t think the car was that bad and we still could’ve won it all, even if we were a few laps down. When I brought the car to the guys in the garage though, we found that it was absolutely destroyed and would probably take 30 laps to get back. So I told them let’s do this Days of Thunder style… put tires on it and I would see what I could do. I wasn’t that fast on the track and the leaders got to me in no time. When the No. 99 was going by, I figured I needed to do what I could to make sure that he didn’t win the championship by taking us out. The guys on my team worked hard and it’s not fair to them to lose like that.
While we didn’t take home the trophy, I feel that I got a lot of street credit and earned a lot of respect from the guys in the garage, especially at the Cup level. Honestly, I really didn’t think that many people were watching, but it turned out that it did have a big impact. I feel that the most important thing in this situation is that when there is a lot on the line, like there was that weekend, you need to make good decisions, and I can say that we did that. I thought the decisions to try to let Stenhouse go by, to work on the car and try to get it back out there and, at the very end, taking him out were all the right ones. I didn’t even talk to Ricky afterwards. Hell, his own crew was ticked off at him. I wouldn’t want to be Ricky Stenhouse right now.
In the end though, I’m glad the ARCA experience is over. I don’t think Red Bull or I ever want to be a part of that series again. As far as parking us at Toledo, taking away the Rookie of the Year and some points, well, that is par for the course with ARCA. I think they did everything they could to make sure we didn’t win the championship all year long. Granted, when you blow a tire in one race and then the second-place guy wrecks you in the next race, you can’t win the championship, but I feel we should’ve won regardless of those setbacks. We were the class of the field in every event but had a lot of bad luck and many calls work against us.
That being said, I couldn’t be happier to finally make it to the Sprint Cup level. The results may not have been great, but they weren’t entirely reflective of how we ran. In fact, Martinsville was better than I expected. We were a lot faster than we thought we were going to be, but unfortunately we had brake problems that just killed us. Otherwise, we probably could have had a top-10 or -15 finish. Atlanta was a different story, we struggled basically the whole time. It didn’t help that we had a gearbox failure that we didn’t find out about until after all the practices. I feel pretty good about our chances this week at Texas. Even though the track looks similar to Atlanta, it actually drives more like Charlotte. When we practiced there a few weeks ago, we were a top-five or -10 car. I feel like if we unload well at Texas, and I think we will, we will be a lot better off than we were at Atlanta.
Speaking of Texas, I got to spend some time with bull riding champion Tuff Hedeman while riding a mechanical bull. I wanted to originally ride a real bull, but the lawyers weren’t too keen on that idea. Still, it was a great experience and I’m very lucky to be able to do fun stuff like that through my racing career and relationship with Red Bull. To be able to hang out with a guy like Tuff and get to experience a lot of the cowboy culture was really cool. I’ve never got to see that side of America in my life. Those guys are really brave and I have a lot of respect for them.
One other thing I wanted to share with all of you is that a few weeks ago, I cut my hair into a mohawk and a lot of people thought I did it for the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. That was just all coincidence. In fact, I don’t even watch baseball, I think it’s boring. But I’m glad people noticed the new look.
Keep rooting for Team Red Bull and I as we look to turn in a few good runs to finish out the season. Thanks for your support!