GRC Personalities // Scott Speed: Bringing Home the Hardware
Kicking off the year with a win in Barbados was great! I think that we’ve done a good job in developing the 7Up Volkswagen Polo—and by we, I mean all the guys at Andretti. We’ve improved that car from how we got it dramatically, and it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still very much an interim car for us before we get our Beetle. We expect once we do get our Beetle that will be a big step forward.
We won the first heat, but in heat two we just broke a driveshaft, I believe. It was one of those things where, again, if it was our car that Andretti had built, it wouldn’t have happened. But there’s a lot of stuff that we can’t control, and that was one of them. It’s just part of the process, part of running something that’s an interim package for us.
I had a front row seat to both of the major accidents in Barbados, starting with my teammate Tanner Foust on the jump in heat three. The jump was one of those places on the track where you could make up a little bit of time depending on how aggressive you wanted to hit the take-off ramp. You had to get the car slowed down before you hit the jump, otherwise you were going to jump all the way to the corner. I think it was one of those things where, once we sort of caught up to Tanner, he started pushing too hard, driving into the jump so fast and hitting the brakes on the jump, and he just got the car sideways. Not only did he overjump it, but the car also wasn’t pointed in the right direction when he went over the jump. I think it was one of those cases of just trying to hang onto the lead, because we caught up!
Not long after, Ken Block flipped in front of us. Ken got passed, and then Ken was out of control! I think that was just one of those things where he just lost control of his vehicle.
There was no secret to driving the track, really—it’s just how we set our cars up to go around there. Obviously, when Joni took the joker twice, we realized that we had enough of a lead that it was just basically a matter of surviving. So we definitely drove a bit cautiously after that point. But we were fast all weekend! We came in there and our stuff was pretty quick right away, which was great. You wait all offseason to find out where you are, so that was super encouraging. It’s just trying to get through the heats and the starts without crashing or breaking. Then, once Joni took the joker twice, it was just about survival.
Top Gear gave us a huge trophy for winning, which was awesome. That ended up—where is that right now? I believe it’s at the Volkswagen headquarters in Herndon—at least that’s where I’m hoping it ended up! That’s where it was supposed to go. It’ll be a cool little trophy to have at their headquarters, and I’m glad I was able to color up the place a little bit.
Our performance in Barbados was about our team. The equipment is what it is—our team made that stuff winners. I don’t think either one of those Polos had spent much time at the clean end of the racetrack before. Both of our cars were really fast all weekend, and that comes down to our team. The series is getting more competitive, and Andretti has upped that game significantly. That’s what we have, that’s what’s making the cars fast.
I’ve been pretty busy doing appearances for Volkswagen since coming home. I was just a couple of days ago, at the US Pro, the US Cycling National Championships, which Volkswagen supports. That was an amazing event to go to. I got to hang out with Volkswagen rider Tim Johnson, which was awesome. I got his to pick his brain—I’m an avid cyclist myself, so hanging out with the pros was really cool to do, to see how those guys execute at such a high level in their sport. I headed down to the Herndon Festival this weekend as well. I had a couple of autograph sessions, and I got to hang out at the festival. That’s one of the perks of being a Volkswagen athlete, I guess!
Believe it or not, our stuff, even with the Polo and as much work as we’ve done with them, we still have so much more work to do that we won’t get to do until before DC. Those cars will have been on a boat until before Austin. You might have noticed that after the win there were no burnouts—we can’t afford to break anything right now! So it’s still a growing process. We’re fast, that’s great—our challenges are going to be keeping the car consistent and trying to avoid some of the failures that are outside of our control.
Hopefully we’ll go out there and win a bunch more races! We have the speed, which is great, but the competition is good as well! There are a lot of good guys—Joni and Nelson are going to be good competition all year, so I expect a lot of very good battles in the near future.
Photo credit: Alison Padron