The birth of Scott Speed’s Red Bull GRC career came about almost as a happy accident—after he won last April’s X Games Brazil in the series’ “Star Car,” he impressed so many people so quickly that he ended up taking over the ride all season long. After finishing fifth in 2013 points, Michael Andretti snapped Speed up as one of the two drivers for his new Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross squad, and expectations entering the season were limitless.
When all was said and done, Speed took third place in series points, but depending on which statistics have the most value to you, he was the best driver out there.
Only Speed competed in all 10 finals in 2014, including the six-car main event in X Games Austin. He led the series in victories with three, taking the top step of the podium in the first two races of the season at Top Gear Festival Barbados and Austin, plus the first leg of the Los Angeles doubleheader. He even led the series in pole positions with three (New York, Los Angeles II, and Las Vegas), and qualified either first or second in seven of 10 events.
And he did all this despite not competing in the team’s new Beetle until the season finale.
Speed and his team showed incredible resilience when they were tested all year long. In DC, freak engine issues kept him out of qualifying and two rounds of heats, contributing to the erosion of much of his points lead. He had to advance to the main event through last chance qualifiers in Charlotte, Daytona, Los Angeles II, and Seattle, going a perfect four for four in LCQs.
Then, in Las Vegas, an aggressive cut across the course from the outside front row saw Speed run into Bucky Lasek and would have eliminated both cars if not for a red flag. When the field was reset, Speed was allowed to rejoin the field from the back of the grid, but picked off cars with ease until reaching Lasek in second, and held third until eventual champion Joni Wiman got by both drivers in the joker.
In all honesty, one error in New York was the only thing that kept Speed from this year’s championship. That weekend, Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr. entered the main event tied for the championship lead. After a red flag, the team made the mistake of pulling the car into their tent for unapproved repairs. Though pulling into the tent itself can lead to a penalty, the actions taken while inside were the determining factor in the call; the only repairs that can be undertaken during a red flag in the main event are refueling, cosmetic repairs, damaged tire or wheel replacement, and refilling the water reservoir.
Speed had finished second in the race, giving him a five-point lead with Piquet third. The revised result saw Speed plummet to ninth, as he was disqualified from the point of the illegal repairs. The penalty led to a 40-point swing (he lost 35 while Piquet gained five) that removed him from the championship lead; if not for the penalty, he would have won the title by three points in Las Vegas.
With the new Beetle ready to go for the entire 2015 slate, don’t be surprised to see more of the same from Speed at the front of the grid. And with this year’s mistakes firmly behind the entire VARX squad, mark the ex-Formula 1 star down as a championship favorite for next year.