NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Scott Speed

Scott Speed

2010 Ride: No. 82 Red Bull Racing Toyota
2010 Primary Sponsor: Red Bull
2010 Owner: Dietrich Mateschitz
2010 Crew Chiefs: Jimmy Elledge (Feb. – May), Ryan Pemberton (June – Nov.)
2010 Stats: 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s, 2 DNFs, 0 poles, 30th in points

High Point: There were not many high points for Scott Speed in his 2010 campaign with Red Bull Racing; however, the first four races of the season seemed to show a bit of promise for the sophomore driver. Thanks to finishes of 19th in Daytona, 11th at Fontana, 22nd in Las Vegas and a 10th in Atlanta, Speed was 12th in points heading to the fifth race of the year at Bristol Motor Speedway. But it would be another 13 races before Speed would record a result higher than 15th, dropping him to 26th in the standings as the year hit the midseason mark.

Low Point: A season of low points, Speed’s worst moment came after the Cup schedule had officially ended. With questions lingering for much of the season as to his 2011 place of employment, Red Bull Racing sent Speed a fax on November 24 informing him he was no longer with the organization. After acquiring Kasey Kahne in a one-season deal, combined with Brian Vickers scheduled to return to action next year, team officials decided there was no room for Speed moving forward.

Upset with how the situation was handled, the driver has filed a $6.5 million lawsuit against Red Bull Racing for breach of contract, one he says extended through the end of the 2013 season. Aside from the lawsuit, the team’s move also complicates Speed’s future in the sport as he is now forced to find a ride in the offseason while many deals have already been completed.

Summary: When RBR brought Speed up to the Sprint Cup Series in favor of AJ Allmendinger, many expected the organization to stick with their protégé until he matured into a consistent driver in the series. However, unsatisfactory results and a lack of confidence in performance led to many questions about Speed’s future with the team.

After a somewhat promising start to the season, the bottom fell out for the No. 82 Toyota group and the results were reflective. Even a crew chief change, from Jimmy Elledge to Ryan Pemberton did little to stop the bleeding, a sophomore slump extended over an entire season that included several wrecks and inconsistent races.

Once Vickers was out, Speed was left without a mentoring teammate and forced to deal with an organization that was dealt an unexpected setback by losing their top driver. Not prepared to fill that role, Speed was never able to pick up the pace and fell behind on the learning curve. Team general manger Jay Frye changed crew chiefs and made other adjustments to the team, yet nothing seemed to help Speed’s on-track performance.

One of NASCAR’s most unique personalities, Speed’s attitude throughout the second half of the year seemed to indicate he had no worries about his future with the team. Despite Frye and other team officials expressing doubt and concern with his pace of learning and overall commitment, Speed remained steadfast that reclusive owner Dietrich Mateschitz would stand up for him when it came time.

He didn’t. Now out of a ride and Daytona fast approaching, Speed has a lawsuit against the team and is forced to find a ride for next season. Making matters even more complicated, the 27-year-old driver was a part of Red Bull for seven years; it was a long-term relationship that proved fruitful for both sides, as they were the ones throughout his career that put deals together and provided funding.

“They thought it was OK to kick me to the curb and not try to do absolutely anything for me,” Speed told SceneDaily.com’s Bob Pockrass. “They didn’t want to pay me anything. They didn’t want to help me get into any other kind of ride. Nothing. They were, ‘OK, we’re done with you. Thank you for seven-and-a-half years.’”

So now, Speed is left without an agent and searching for future opportunities to keep his racing career afloat.

Team Ranking: Fourth. While RBR is only a two-car operation, a number of drivers were brought in after Vickers was forced to sit out the season due to a serious medical condition. Among those selected as replacement drivers, Kahne and Reed Sorenson produced better results than Speed had all season. In addition, before being sidelined in May, Vickers was able to score three top-10s and lead 27 laps – bettering Speed’s season total in both categories.

2011 Outlook: The outlook for Speed is pretty bleak for the 2011 season. With the complication of being released after the season, in addition to his lack of progress in the No. 82 car throughout the year, his options are quite limited. With no manager to put deals together for him, the NASCAR newcomer is on his own and facing an uphill battle to stay in the sport.

2008 Frontstretch Grade: C–
2009 Grade: D+
2010 Grade: D

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