From F1 to ARCA; Scott Speed Steers for Salem
SALEM IN (4-9-08) -- From wine, cheese and caviar to hamburgers and hotdogs. From the French Riviera to small town Indiana, Formula 1 veteran Scott Speed is headed to Salem Speedway for the April 13th Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 presented by Federated Car Care.
And he rather likes it that way.
"I'm excited to go to Salem," said Speed. "I've heard a lot about that little Salem short-track. I've heard it's very demanding, radical, different and bumpy -- that it's a difficult track to master. I'll just do what I always do -- keep an open mind. I look forward to the challenge."
It's not often the progression in major league auto racing takes a driver from Formula 1 to ARCA, but that's case for Speed, who wants to make a career out of driving stock cars.
"There was a time when my ego would get in the way," said Speed. "But I'm way past that. I'm very comfortable with where I'm at in my career -- very confident in my ability to adapt to stock car racing. We want to make the transition into stock car racing, and we think the ARCA RE/MAX Series is the best way to do that.
"We did our homework on this subject. Given all the different tracks that ARCA races on, many of the same ones that NASCAR competes on, it's the perfect stepping stone for where we want to go."
On the road to 'where he wants to go' just happens to be a little, historically significant short-track nestled into the hills of southern Indiana, known for 60-plus years and counting as Salem Speedway. But don't look for any caviar at the concession stand.
Speed, who drives the Red Bull Toyota for Eddie Sharp Racing, will be making his career-first Salem appearance. However, Speed has already tested once at Salem in March, and plans to test one more time before the race.
Speed's career-best Formula 1 finishes are 9th in the Monaco Grand Prix '07, 9th in the Australian Grand Prix '06, 10th in the Canadian Grand Prix '06 and 10th in the French Grand Prix '06. His career-best ARCA RE/MAX Series finish was seventh in his first start at Talladega Superspeedway in October of 2007. After qualifying second in the 2008 ARCA 200 at Daytona, the Manteca, California native led 16 laps before getting caught up in the big wreck early in the race.
Driver Comments Regarding Racing With Scott Speed
Frank Kimmel/9-time series champion: "For me, personally, it's not a big deal. But for the series, it's definitely a big deal. To have someone of his stature racing here is huge. Now, once he's in the car, he's just another competitor we all have to deal with; and from what I've seen so far, he's very good. Off the track, what he brings to the series is very important."
Bobby Gerhart/5-time Daytona ARCA 200 Winner: "Is the attention he brings to the series a good thing? Absolutely. If he helps bring more luster to the series, bring it on. But, for me, it's not a big deal. This is a tough deal; I don't care who you are. He'll have his hands full here. Anyone would have their hands full here. It doesn't matter where you come from -- Indy, F-1 -- this place is challenging no matter where you come from. Given all that's on the plate here, and the amount of diversity in this series, this is a tough deal for the best of the best. Whoever the best drivers in the world are, this would be a tough deal."
Andy Hillenburg/1995 series champion/Rockingham Speedway President: "I think it's great that guys like Scott Speed are racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. It's definitely an attention getter. But ARCA has always been one of the best stock car series out there. It prepares drivers for that next level in stock car racing, but it's also a place where you can have a great career. Those who have been around the series for years have always known that it's one of the very best stock car series in the world for a multitude of purposes; and it's great that the rest of the world is finally recognizing what we've always known."
Justin Allgaier/current series point leader/Salem's most recent winner: "I think it definitely opens up a wider range of people who are going to watch ARCA RE/MAX Series races. Coming from the open-wheel side of things, having Scott race in our series will bring in more people from that type of racing. It just broadens our scope, so it's definitely a good thing. Biggest thing for him will be the fact that he doesn't have a lot of time in a stock car, but after seeing what I've seen in him so far, I don't think he'll have any trouble at all making the adjustment."
Dexter Bean/former Salem polesitter: Yah, it's kind of cool that we have an F1 driver racing with us in ARCA. It's neat; it's impressive. I know his intentions are to move up, so it's a good idea that he's getting some stock car training here first. But when it comes to racing on the track and running side-by-side, when it comes right down to it, he's just another driver; and it's no big deal."