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Speeds California homecoming not so sweet
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It was not the homecoming Manteca native Scott Speed had hoped for when he returned to Northern California for last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma.
After struggling for much of the year in his rookie season in Cup, the former Formula One pilot would finally have his crack at a road course on a track were he had honed his skills 10 years ago as a student in the Jim Russell racing school program.
“It has been cool to be back in California,” said Speed. “I got to spend some time with my family and talk to some people that I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s been a fun week.”
Although Speed entered the weekend 35th in driver points, his #82 Red Bull Toyota was only 36th in owner points, one spot out of the magic top 35 which guarantees a driver a starting spot regardless of qualifying time.
Unfortunately, one small bobble late in his run, which sent him careening through the dirt outside of turn #10 and cost him about two seconds, dropped him not only out of a sure top five starting spot, but completely out of the 43 car field altogether.
“There was ton of wind blowing across the track and I didn’t account properly how much it would blow the car around and it just caught me enough to knock me off the track,” explained Speed.
Thanks to some quick work by the Red Bull team manager, a deal was struck allowing Speed to take over the #87 car qualified by Joe Nemechek.
“Luckily we were able to get into another car and get some experience on a road course in a Cup car,” said Speed. “To be honest, these cars are all about the same anyway, but it is not as good as the one we had.”
Starting from the rear of the field Speed was eventually able to make it all the way to the front briefly on lap 78, before cascading back down to a disappointing 37th place finish.
While he will be looking to put last weekend out of his mind, Speed is excited about the future which will include his first taste in a Rolex Grand Am car in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway.
“Kyle Busch and I have become pretty good friends so we hooked up for this and decided to call it Team BS for Busch and Speed,” said Speed with a wry smile. “I happened to have a friend who runs Waste Management and they put up some money so we are Team BS by Waste Management.”
Speed also took time to give a candid assessment his season up to this point.
“It has been up and down. Every time you think that you have it figured out something else happens and you are lost again. I am starting to get a feel for these big, heavy cars, but they are so different to anything I have ever driven before.
“There is a lot of experience you are going up against here and not to have stock car background makes it even more difficult I have good guidance around me but it has been tough. I think I am making progress though.”
Speed will be back in action this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule resumes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the LENOX Industrial Tools 301.
A full slate of local racing is on tap for this first Saturday of summer.
Madera Speedway will be hosting its 3rd Annual Summer Kick off Party & Hawaiian Shirt Night tonight. The huge eight division racing program will feature the Western Late Models in a 50-lap main where Stockton’s Ross Strmiska will be looking for his fourth straight win. Strmiska’s hot streak has enabled him to close to within just 13 points (205-192) of Modesto’s Kyle Gottula in the season standings for the track championship
In addition to all of the action on the track, there will be plenty of entertainment off the track today as well. The first 100 fans entering the grounds will receive free leis, there will be men’s and women’s Hawaiian shirt contests and following the races the action will move to the Madera Speedway music stage behind the main grandstands for some live music.
Chowchilla Speedway, which continues to draw huge car counts, will be hosting Kid’s Night today with the Super Stocks, Hobby Stocks, 4-Bangers and Valley Sportsman/ Hard Tops.
The Western Late Models will also be the featured class at the New Stockton 99 Speedway today. Also racing will be the Grand American Modifieds, ALSC/Street Stocks and the Bombers on Alpine Meats Night at the races.
Merced Speedway will also be racing today with a card featuring the CA Limited Sportmods, Hobby Stocks, IMCA Modifieds and Street Stocks.