Editor’s Note: Scott Speed was once America’s hope as a Formula One racer. He later enjoyed a brief career in NASCAR. Now the Californian is one of the stars of the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series. Speed was featured in the July issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine. Here is an excerpt from that story.
If there’s a belief that Scott Speed rarely fails to share, it’s that the Red Bull Global Rallycross series is “the future of motorsports” in the United States.
But when he first got an opportunity to drive in GRC, Speed knew virtually nothing about this form of racing.
“I remember when I got invited to Brazil for X Games (in 2013),” said Speed, whose X Games debut came in just the third year of the series’ existence. “I immediately started looking up YouTube videos and I’d never seen anything like it before. I saw the cars jumping 70 feet through the air, and I thought, ‘Wow, am I really going to do this?’”
Speed ended up doing it — after bypassing the jump on his first few practice laps, of course — and wound up winning gold in that very race, all while racing in an older-model Ford Fiesta rallycross car with a satellite team of Olsbergs MSE. Although Speed was a GRC rookie at the time, he certainly wasn’t a newcomer to racing. Speed entered rallycross with experience in Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar and ARCA.
Rallycross wound up being a good fit. It wasn’t long before Speed upgraded from the older, used equipment to a brand-new Volkswagen Beetle with Andretti Autosport’s rallycross division, and it was just two years after his debut that Speed claimed the 2015 championship.
Despite his success, GRC wasn’t where Speed expected to end up — in fact, he raced in a few series he was adamant about avoiding on his way to that X Games debut.
“When I was a kid, I definitely said I’d never race NASCAR,” said the California native, who had his heart set on racing in Formula One. “I was a 100 percent road course, open-wheel guy at heart.”
But Speed had other concerns at heart, too. After spending the 2007 and ’08 seasons with the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One team, he missed calling the States home. That’s when he accepted the NASCAR ride he said he never would.
For the road racer who spent years in Europe, stock car racing was, for obvious reasons, “a huge culture shock and a huge learning experience.” The experience proved to be marred from the beginning — his rookie year in the ARCA Racing Series, Speed entered the season finale with four victories and the 2008 championship all but wrapped up.
The trophy never went to him, though. A bump from his closest contender for the title, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., sent Speed into the wall and ended championship hopes for both drivers. Justin Allgaier made up a 110-point deficit from third to claim the title.
The wreckage didn’t deter him and Speed kept with the stock cars until he got the chance to “dabble along” in GRC throughout 2013. When it came time to make a decision for the 2014 season, his choices were at opposite ends of the spectrum — head to a less-established series with an established team or stay with NASCAR efforts that were “not properly funded.”
“No way I was winning any races (in NASCAR) — I was just kind of making a living driving cars,” Speed said. “I saw (GRC) as a chance to get into something with a proper factory effort from Volkswagen — and a proper team effort from Andretti — in a series that I really thought had a chance.”
The sport did have a chance and Speed “kind of fell in love with it.”
“I don’t think I had any idea this sport would grow to the level that it’s at now,” Speed said. “To watch where it’s gone from then has been incredible, and I feel super fortunate to have been able to get in so early and be able to establish myself.”