2008 Rides: No. 84 Red Bull Camry (four races), No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry (one race), No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry (one race – DNQ)
2008 Primary Sponsor: Red Bull
2008 Owner: Dietrich Mateschitz
2008 Crew Chiefs: Jimmy Elledge (No. 84), Kevin Hamlin (No. 83), Richard “Slugger” Labbe (No. 82)
2008 Stats: 6 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 1 DNQ (Lowe’s, October), 55th in points
High Point: In the season finale at Homestead, Scott Speed switched seats with veteran teammate Brian Vickers, putting the No. 83 Red Bull Camry on the outside of the front row. Throughout the 400-mile race that Sunday, Speed then managed to stay out of trouble and kept his nose clean to bring home a 16th-place finish, easily his best of a short 2008 Cup campaign.
The move to switch drivers that weekend will have a lasting effect for Speed well into 2009, though. Vickers was able to put the No. 82 (was the 84) into the Top 35 in the owner standings with a solid run of his own, ensuring Speed a spot in the starting lineup for the first five races of this year.
Low Point: Speed suffered his only DNF of his short stint in the Cup Series at Phoenix, but it was a wreck that is hard to forget. When the rookie came to the track, it was the first time he had laid eyes on Phoenix International Raceway; but when his day was over, he had another unique view – the bottom of David Gilliland’s car. The duo was caught up in a multi-car wreck close to the end of the race, with Speed’s Camry sliding its nose under the rear of Gilliland’s Ford with such force it lifted it into the air.
Summary: Speed was a busy man in 2008, racing in the ARCA Re/Max Series, Craftsman Truck Series and the Sprint Cup Series. In the CTS, he ran 16 events and scored his first victory by conquering the Monster Mile at Dover. In ARCA, he drove the No. 2 Eddie Sharp Racing entry to four wins and battled for the championship, until poor finishes in the final two races dropped him to fifth in the final standings. In the final event of that season, he crashed out after being tapped by fellow championship contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – a move that caused Speed to use on-track retaliation to ensure neither driver would take home the trophy.
That type of aggression made it clear this open-wheel convert didn’t come to stock cars to play around. For while the rookie found those experiences helpful, Speed’s eye is on the big prize of the Sprint Cup Series. After a rough start, in the final race of the year he showed that he does have the potential to find success in the series – and he certainly has a style that will keep the sponsors coming.
Off-Track News: Speed showed off both his fashion and charitable sense in 2008 when he designed a t-shirt in partnership with Muze Clothing. The “Muffin Man” t-shirts proceeds will benefit the Chron’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). Muze’s trademark is placing a classic movie line on each of its shirts, a tradition that Speed took full advantage of in this venture. Not surprisingly, his “Muffin Man” shirt dons a line from the movie Top Gun: “I feel the need, the need for speed.”
2009 Outlook: Speed will go mano y mano with fellow Toyota driver Joey Logano for Rookie of the Year honors in 2009. Both drivers have limited experience; but while Red Bull finds itself a solid second place amongst the Toyota teams, Logano has the strength of top dog Joe Gibbs Racing behind him.
Speed ended the season on a high note, but it will be a tall order for him to carry that forward throughout 2009 as he faces tracks that he’s never run on before in a stock car. He does have a strong crew chief with him in Jimmy Elledge, which should help the team produce a few strong runs. But on the other end of the ROTY battle is two-time championship crew chief Greg Zipadelli, tilting that advantage Logano’s way.
Normally, second place in the ROTY standings isn’t anything to be ashamed of. However, when it’s a two-man race, it’s not much to brag about – but that’s where we see Speed ending up.
2008 Frontstretch Grade: C-
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