Speed wraps up rookie season

by Monte Dutton

Scott Speed, once a Formula One driver, was part of a bold experiment perpetrated by NASCAR’s Team Red Bull.

After placing Speed in a variety of races — 16 each in the Camping World Truck and ARCA series — in 2008, the team cut loose AJ Allmendinger and replaced him with Speed in the team’s No. 82 Toyota. Allmendinger took a ride with what is now Richard Petty Motorsports.

Neither driver has been particularly impressive this year, though Allmendinger has performed slightly better, ranking 25th in the Sprint Cup standings with one top-five and five top-10 finishes. Speed, 26, is 35th by Monte Dutton with one top five (also his only top 10).

But Speed, from Manteca, Calif. is gradually adjusting to stock-car racing.

Asked what he has learned, he said, “Probably a lot: how you get the cars running throughout the practice and throughout the weekend, and how you show up with them as far as the setup is concerned is obviously very important.

“I’m still learning an enormous amount of just racing sort of skill. Racing on an oval in these big, heavy cars is something completely different than what I’ve ever done my whole life. It’s amazing, every weekend, as we get more competitive and start running in the Top 20 and start running in a competitive position, and how much I’m learning in those situations. I think my ‘race craft’ and my feel for the car is what’s getting better and better.”

Echoing Juan Pablo Montoya, who has successfully made a transition from Formula One to NASCAR, Speed said this is a whole new world for him.

“It’s completely different because, in Formula One, I went into it just like [fellow Cup rookie] Joey [Logano],” said Speed. “I’ve done it my whole life. It was what was natural to me.

“It’s something completely new and very challenging.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports

Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma. com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_ (c) 2009 King Features Syndicate

With stints in Formula One, Camping World and ARCA racing, ScottSpeed is finishing up his first season in Sprint Cup. (JohnClark/NASCAR This Week photo)