SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Starting Position: 2nd How do you handle starting next to Jimmie Johnson on Sunday? "Carefully. More than anything I think it was just a product of being able to go out when the...
How do you handle starting next to Jimmie Johnson on Sunday?
"Carefully. More than anything I think it was just a product of being able to go out when the sun was going down. Nonetheless its two years in a row that we're on the outside front row here. Eventually, I am going to want to be on the pole. The car is pretty good in race trim. Hopefully, we can work on it. When you start up front in a race like this, especially the way the restarts are working now with the lappers having to go to the back because you potentially don't go a lap down and you stay on the lead lap all day and get a good result. We have to take advantage of it and run good all day on Sunday and come home with a good, strong end of the year."
How close was that to being a perfect lap?
"Pretty far, honestly. It was average, definitely average. I think the lap that we put up on the front row last year was definitely better. We'll take it and it was better than all the other 'go-or-go-homers' and they had the same conditions so we've made progress with the car. Hopefully it stays good on Sunday. Starting up there really helps for the overall big picture on Sunday."
What is your plan going into the first turn on Sunday?
"Race car drivers don't typically make plans, I'll be honest with you. Certainly you don't want to be the guy that takes out the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), that doesn't look good on your resume. No plan, you're going to give him room, you race him as hard as you can to race your own race, but I think the thing we all fear more than anything is being the idiot that takes out the 48 (Johnson) and ruins and perfectly good four-championship streak."
What could Sunday mean for you heading into next season?
"I can't say that one race is going to change so much. I think at the end of the season, we're going to look back at the last three months and say that we've gotten better, run a lot better, had better finishes and what can we work on over the off season to make things better. Obviously, we're in a great position to have another good result. We're going to take care of that first and foremost, but regardless if something goes wrong, we get in a crash or I even make a mistake and don't finish, I think we're going to look at more of the big picture at what we can work on through the off season to get better for next year."
What have the challenges been for you this season compared to your Formula 1 career?
"The challenges are totally different as I can and have improved do much just from race to race. By the time I made it to Formula 1, I can honestly say there was a lot I was learning about being a professional open wheel driver. You kind of already made it, there are always things you work on and you always try to get better, but for the most part you're just really fine tuning things. Ever since I came back over the pond and started racing these things, every time I get into it, there's something big that I learn. Honestly, it's been a lot more exciting having done that just because I can physically see so much more progress in myself from where I started out. From my first Cup race to where I am now, it's been fun and really exciting for me to be able to make those improvements and be able to better myself as a race car driver. That's the most rewarding."
How do you push yourself to make those improvements?
"The thing about this type of racing is experience means so much. The cars haven't changed very much over the years and there's a reason why a guy like Mark Martin can go out there and still run as competitively as he has. At some point, that experience is worth so much and honestly, the challenge here for me is to try to soak up as much experience as I can every weekend and really try to nail down and learn as efficiently as I can."
What areas do you still have to improve on?
"One of them certainly is running the top side. There's a reason why I was on the bottom in qualifying here, it's not exactly my forte. I think the biggest thing is the feel of the car, what it's supposed to feel like when it's fast. What we saw last year here, we ended up putting the thing on the front row as well and thought everything was going to be super good and really went in optimistically for this year and then we get to the beginning of this year and when the cars not right, it was obvious that I had trouble conveying to my crew chief what we needed to do to make it better. I think what we are getting the most better at is that when the car is not right, making it right in the short amount of practice that we have every weekend."
-credit: toyota motorsports