Speed Zone

Manteca racer called 'refreshing' addition to NASCAR ranks

June 6, 2008 

NASCAR Trucks Auto Racing

Scott Speed celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series AAA Insurance 200 auto race, Friday, May 30, 2008, at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. (Russ Hamilton / The Associated Press)

NASCAR's newest race winner is quite a bit different from all the others.

Fans in the Central Valley know Manteca native Scott Speed, 25, doesn't have a traditional short-track upbringing.

He doesn't feel the need to do what's expected, and he's doing his best not to let results determine his confidence.

He's wide open, wide-eyed and his tastes are wide-ranging.

After earning his first win in the Truck Series last weekend at Dover, Del., in just his sixth series start, Speed hustled into the media center and promptly began his winner's interview with a discussion of his recent pedicure.

The news conference ended with Speed showcasing his blue-colored toenails for everyone.

This is not your typical NASCAR driver.

Perhaps that's what makes Speed so refreshing.

"He's a free spirit, that's for sure," said Team Red Bull general manager Jay Frye, who is helping to coordinate Speed's driver development program for the organization this season.

"His commitment, however, is very impressive. You may see something different in the way he acts or dresses or whatever, but when it comes time to go, the kid is spot-on."

Speed spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons as a driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One team. With his debut in the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix, Speed became the first American driver in the series since Michael Andretti in 1993.

He made his debut in stock cars last fall in the Automobile Racing Club of America series race in Talladega, Ala., in preparation for running the full season in 2008. He won his first ARCA race this season at Kansas.

Red Bull added some Truck Series races to his schedule to begin his introduction to NASCAR, and it didn't take long for Speed to earn a victory there, either.

Frye said Speed's schedule will continue to change through the end of the year. He has added tonight's Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway to his schedule and plans to run in Saturday's ARCA race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

"I'm learning step by step. It's going to be a long process. I mean just to have the experience to know what to do on the trucks or on the cars. You can't just learn it right away," Speed said.

"It's something you have to feel and you have to learn, and the learning curve that I've had is amazing. I've learned a ton every time I go out on the track for a race. I definitely come away with a lot of feeling, a lot of experience and knowledge."

Speed's success has prompted questions about when he will make his debut in the Sprint Cup Series for Team Red Bull.

"I know Red Bull will want me to do some Cup races soon, but I'm not in a rush," he said. "I'm having the time of my life just coming over here and trying to learn this sport. And it's awesome."

"Red Bull has given me an incredible opportunity to do this, and my hat's off to them. Without them, none of this would have been possible."

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