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Scott Speed: “Our Expectations Are High!”

February 6, 2014

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Scott Speed won his Red Bull Global Rallycross debut, the 2013 season-opening round at X Games Brazil. After all, his career experience reads like a what’s what of motorsports, from a successful start to his career in karts to the banked ovals of NASCAR and two seasons in Formula 1, the pinnacle of road racing.

Despite initially signing a one-race deal, Speed parlayed the momentum from Brazil into a second victory in Charlotte and a decent fifth place finish in Red Bull GRC points last season. In response, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross snapped him up to pilot a brand-new Volkswagen Beetle alongside two-time series champion Tanner Foust. Now entering his second year in the sport, Speed talks about the new deal that will see him focus on rallycross full-time:

First things first—how did your deal to join Andretti Autosport for the upcoming Red Bull Global Rallycross season come together?

It’s something that’s been a work in progress—it was one of those things that came together once all the pieces of the puzzle fit. I’m beyond excited to be able to do GRC full time and give it everything, instead of it sort of being on the back burner to the NASCAR career. I’m excited to have the chance to do this full time and have this be my main focus in racing.

Was there anything in particular that attracted you to joining Andretti Autosport as an organization? Have you worked with, or competed against, Michael Andretti before?

Obviously, the team is super professional. It’s an IndyCar level operation, so it’s certainly going to bring our sport up to the next level. Being with this team, setting that precedent, is the perfect spot to be. Michael, with his background, having driven Formula 1 as well is kind of fun—I hadn’t really met Michael before this, and up to this point we’re still the last Americans to race in F1, so there have been some funny conversations about that, in the shop anyway!

Volkswagen’s stage rally program performed incredibly well last year, winning the WRC with an eye on expanding into rallycross. Knowing how well that program performed, what does it mean to you to be part of another new VW factory program?

It means our expectations are high! We understand the challenges in front of us, but also there’s the fact that I love the chance to go out and do it, and start working towards that.

You’ll be paired with Tanner Foust, who you raced with in Fords last year and who has spoken highly of your abilities, especially on tarmac. What are you looking forward to about working with him this year?

It’ll be the first time that I really had a teammate, so that’s going to be good. Last year, our situation was still quite separated, so this time being able to work with a teammate will be great. I think we have different driving styles, which should help us work together during the weekends to optimize our stuff.

I’m assuming that you haven’t driven the car yet. When will you get to drive it for the first time, and having raced against it before, what do you expect out of it?

We’re still working on it, but certainly soon—there’s just no exact date yet. The expectations are open. We’re just looking forward to getting out there and working on it, and starting to get in the groove of the season, getting back in that space.

You were strong on both tarmac and clay-dominated tracks last year—how well do you think the VW is built to your strengths as a driver?

You don’t fit the car to your style, you fit your style to the conditions, really—they’ve all got to marry each other. You can’t force the car to do something it doesn’t want to do, and vice versa. It’s always a give and take, and we’re always trying to find what’s optimum. It’s going to be a continuous development of the car throughout the season, and that’s one of my strengths, whereas it’s not something we were able to do last year. Now that I have a full team behind me, a good teammate like Tanner Foust, and the ability to develop things, I really feel like that’s going to be an advantage for us come the latter part of the season.

Were there any lessons about this type of racing that you took out of last season and can apply to this year?

Yes, absolutely—the race craft for sure! Figuring out how the races are run, getting in the flow and basically getting rid of that rookie (feeling) with the time you have to spend in something that’s new. I feel like that experience is going to be infinitely valuable come next season. I still expect us to be fast, and I now expect us to take advantage of the small things during the races that will be opportunistic for us. So having that year under our belt is going to be a huge difference going into next year.

Finally, you raced with #77 last year and had a lot of success with it. Do you have any say in keeping that number for this year?

That’s definitely going to be our number, for sure. The number has special meaning, and that’ll be our deal. We will continue the reign of the 77!

Photo credit: QBA/ (1, 3); Colin Dyne (2); Matthew Kalish (4)

Categories: Interviews