Scott Speed. His name says it all and the 22-year-old Californian is firmly headed for the big time in motorsports: the FIA Formula One Championship.
Speed started the way seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher learned his craft in karting and rose to national prominence in karts toward the end of the last century, earning his first national championship in 1995.
Speed was chosen as one of the first drivers in energy drink Red Bull's search for a new American F1 star. He went to Europe in 2003, set up residence in Red Bull owner's Dietrich Mateschitz' home country of Austria and honed his craft.
Speed then swiftly moved up through the lower formulae (British Formula 3, Formula Renault -- where he won both Germany and European titles) and this year Speed is competing in GP2, the final step before F1.
While this might sound like the telling of a Cinderella story, there's more to Speed's ascent than meets the eye.
Shortly after his selection as a member of Red Bull's team following the first search for an American F1 driver at the start of 2003, Scott was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The disease, which affects the large intestines causes internal bleeding and anemia.
Midway through his successful 2003 season, Speed found it necessary to return to his Manteca, CA home and seek American medical solutions. While the Austrian physicians tried differing medications and therapies to help him, Speed wanted to have some input from the hometown troops.
He wasn't about to wear a bag around his waist to collect and secrete internal waste and was not about to give up his increasingly successful career in racing. There had to be another solution. By August of 2004, Speed found just the right Austrian doctor who discovered the proper medication to control his colitis.
Since that time, by taking care of himself and eating properly, working on his physical fitness both in Austria at Red Bull's training center and also in Phoenix, Speed has regained the strength he lost during the ordeal and conditioning himself for the next step to racing greatness.
Based on his exemplary third-place standing in GP2 and his exceptional role as third driver in the 2005 North American F1 races at Montreal and Indianapolis, where he tested in Friday practices, Scott has been designated official test driver for the 2006 season, with performance-related options available for his future.
Christian Horner, sporting director of Red Bull Racing has been quite high on Speed since he arrived in GP2 and was aware of the young driver's capabilities before Horner came to the Red Bull, nee Jaguar Racing team.
"It was a natural decision to extend Scott's contract," Horner declared. "We've been impressed with what he's achieved in GP2 this season and the pace he's shown in tests, particularly when driving the team's third car in Canada and at Indianapolis. Those are strong indications of his potential."
With Red Bull Racing expanding to two teams -- and thereby four 2006 Formula One entries -- with the acquisition of Minardi, "Scott's role will be very important as the team develops next year. He's one of the strongest drivers to come out of the US in a long time. We are pleased to be able to give him the opportunity to demonstrate his potential within Formula 1," Horner continued.
During the abortive US Grand Prix weekend at Indianapolis, Speed looked smooth and capable behind the wheel of the third Red Bull/Cosworth/Michelin machine. Outside the racer, he was calm and professional in discussing his experiences.
"Everything's definitely happened very quickly in the last six months," Scott gleamed, "but it's something I've worked very hard for in the last three years. I think we're right on target for the future."
The media attention Speed garnered in Indy was "quite different from what I expected. This is something new in my career and it's shocking, in a good way," he laughed. I think we've got good balance for the compromise needed to be fast on this track," Speed said after Friday practice was complete.
The biggest challenge he's faced is getting accustomed to the European culture and the aggressive racing traditions on the other side of the pond. "It's the hardest thing for an American, going to Europe and getting the education over there. It's more difficult than a lot of people realize," Speed admitted.
"I've been here more than two years and I guess I'm kind of European in a way by now but yeah, it's different. When you live in Austria you speak German or broken English all the time and when you come back to the States, it's difficult" to remember the American slang that once came naturally to him.
Even before the GP2 season is complete and he earns his third-place laurels in that series' inaugural outing, Speed will get to race for the United States in the first A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport. That 12-race endeavor begins with next weekend's (September 23-25) initial event at Brands Hatch in England.
In the first A1 test held at Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet, France, Speed set the fastest lap of all 20 drivers on hand trying out their Lola/Zytek/Cooper Tires packages. "It's a tremendous honor to called onboard by Rick [team owner and CEO Weidinger] to lead A1 Team USA into Brands Hatch," Speed said. "I am very excited to carry the American flag into competition" in the team's "We the People" car.
The car will be campaigned by David Price Racing and Price, who has more than 25 years experience is very excited about the endeavor. The car's "We the People" logo is painted in 37 languages across the body with red and white ripped stripes streaked from the wing and blue stars sprinkled down to its nose.
The global series takes place over six continents and continues into March of next year with the penultimate contest on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course at Monterey, CA. In all, 25 nations expect to field teams in A1GP.
In the midst of the A1GP series, Speed still has fulltime duties with Red Bull. "I'm extremely pleased that Red Bull Racing has decided to extend my contract. This season has been very good for me and to take this step forward for next and, hopefully beyond is a great opportunity."
Because his aim, from the start has always been to race successfully in Formula 1, "This makes it much more of a reality. I've still got a hell of a lot to learn, but with the team around me and with David Coulthard as one of my teammates, I'm in the best place to be able to do that."
Will Scott Speed take his [currently] designated as third driver on the primary Red Bull Racing team for 2006? Or could he end up driving one of the former Minardi cars once that operation is moved from Italy to the UK? Horner and his associates have not yet made any decision of that type, but Speed's future surely looks bright.
Speed's potential is even better now that he's regained his health and can look forward to many seasons doing what he does best, driving a Formula 1 car as fast as it will go.