Kentucky II: Scott Speed race report

Speed Wins Under the Friday Night Lights at Kentucky Speedway Sparta, Ky. (July 18, 2008) -- Gambling with pit strategy and fuel mileage, the bet paid off for Scott Speed and his Eddie Sharp Racing team at Kentucky Speedway. With the caution...

Speed Wins Under the Friday Night Lights at Kentucky Speedway

Sparta, Ky. (July 18, 2008) -- Gambling with pit strategy and fuel mileage, the bet paid off for Scott Speed and his Eddie Sharp Racing team at Kentucky Speedway. With the caution flag coming out on the last lap and sending the event into overtime, the team had dejà vu of the dramatic May race where Speed lost his lead during extra laps due to numerous cautions. This time, however, the chips fell in the favor of Speed and his team, and they rolled the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota into Kentucky Speedway's Victory Lane for their second win of the 2008 season.

"It's cool to win a race like that," said Speed. "Me and the 01 [Caisse] had a great battle the last 30 laps or so. I'm glad I could pull this off for my guys. We went back and forth with each other a lot on the restarts. That just shows two good drivers racing really hard and really clean. Yeah, it was definitely real exciting for me."

Under the hot, summer Kentucky sun, Speed qualified the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota in the sixth position with a 31.028 second lap. This was a huge improvement in the car's handling from the afternoon practice session.

"That felt much better," reported Speed. "We can definitely do something with that. Thanks guys."

Because of a large number of wrecks during qualifying, drivers were hurried into their cars and introduced to the fans from the starting grid. With the sun setting in the west, the green flag dropped on schedule at 8:00 p.m. ET

Under one of the early race cautions, Crew Chief Patrick Donahue made a bold move and had his driver bring the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota to pit road on lap 18. The Red Bull crew quickly put on four fresh tires, added fuel and made an air pressure adjustment in hopes of fixing the slight tight condition that Speed had reported within the opening laps. With one lap to go until the race returned green, Speed came down pit road to top off with Sunoco fuel.

"You're good, buddy," said Donahue. "With a few more cautions, that should get us to the end of the race."

Speed restarted in the back of the field on lap 20. For the next 29 laps, Speed picked the positions off one by one, taking the lead for the first time at lap 49.

Caisse worked his way to the back bumper of the No. 2 car and on the lap 54 restart, passed Speed for the top spot. Speed continued to follow closely and reclaimed the lead on lap 57 while the two young drivers charged down the front stretch.

The battle between Caisse and Speed continued the remainder of the race. Speed held the lead until getting caught up in lapped traffic on lap 79, when Caisse capitalized on the position and moved to the first position once again. Team members held their breaths because these two tangled in the May race on this same track. Just when it appeared that Caisse was pulling away and Speed might have to settle for second again, the caution came out within the final ten laps.

Drivers lined up single-file for the restart on lap 93. Coming down the front stretch to the green flag, Speed lagged back just slightly. As Speed jumped on the throttle, the run was strong and he passed Caisse on the high side just beyond the flag stand.

The Red Bull pit erupted, with nearly every team member standing on pit wall and watching the final laps intently.

On the final lap of the race, the team was just about to start the celebration of win number two when a wreck on the front stretch brought the caution flag out again. Due to ARCA RE/MAX Series rules, a one lap dash to the checked flag would be required. Flooding everyone's mind was the memory of the May race where an "overtime" transmission issue rendered the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota unable to hold onto the lead during restart after restart.

This weekend under, however, the end result would be much sweeter. Under the deep red full moon hanging low in the sky, the race restarted with a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. On lap 104 the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota jumped out to a commanding lead. The final lap went uninterrupted and Scott Speed crossed the Start/Finish line for the win.

"I don't think we had the best car today," said Speed. "Once we got in the lead I knew we had a chance though. I have definitely learned how much better clean air is over the last few months and to have me and the 01 [Caisse] go back and forth so many times, and race clean for that matter was a pretty cool deal."

In addition to the victory, Speed led the most laps (39) earning the Aaron's Lap Leader award and was the SunTrust Highest Finishing Rookie. Speed also earned the Klotz Halfway Leader award.

Scott Speed gained ground on the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship point leader Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., trailing him now by only 65 points.

Next Stop: Speed and the Red Bull crew get little downtime this week. They travel to Nashville Speedway for Tuesday's ARCA RE/MAX Series open test session. The team will return to Charlotte following the test and then it is off to Marne, Michigan this weekend for the Berlin ARCA 200 at Berlin Speedway. SIM Factory Pole Qualifying takes place at 5:00 p.m., followed by the Berlin ARCA 200 green flag at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26th. The race will be broadcast MavTV. All times are EASTERN.

-credit: esr

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Series ARCA
Drivers Scott Speed