Scott Speed, who may or may not be driving Jay Penske’s Indy car when practice and qualifying begin Saturday for next weekend’s 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500, is arrogance personified.
Although he has enough talent to keep a 220-mile-an-hour Indy car off the wall, he’s done absolutely nothing in a racing career that lasted five years in the world’s two top series, Formula One and NASCAR Sprint Cup.
A guy with more luck than skill and ability, he got his F1 seat by winning a contest – the Red Bull Driver Search conducted by Danny Sullivan. Red Bull was determined to get an American into F1 to boost the American sales of its energy drink, so Speed was their boy.
After several years in F1 with Toro Rosso, in which he had a perfect score – big fat zeros in every possible category – he was dumped and wound up in NASCAR with Red Bull backing. (I know, I’ve been wondering why, too.)
While he was in NASCAR, Speed authorized the release of a communiqué announcing to the world that while all the other open wheel drivers who’d moved to NASCAR (Jacques Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish) had been dismal failures, he, Scott Speed, was the most successful of them all.
That he would even dare to lump himself in with Villeneuve, Franchitti and Hornish shows how big this guy’s ego is.
In any event, he was dumped out of NASCAR and now he’s trying to make it in Indy Car. He signed a one-race deal with Dragon Racing (young Penske’s team) and Friday he was the slowest of the 39 drivers who took to the speedway for final practice before Saturday qualifying.
That’s when he fell into a snit and either walked out or threatened to walk out. Derek Daly (retired F1 and IndyCar driver, who was at the Speedway reporting for a local Indianapolis TV station) said it was doubtful Speed would be back in the car.
I hope they don’t kiss and make up. There are good drivers available to get into that Penske car – 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier, for one – and they deserve the shot more than a guy who figures he’s entitled to just about everything racing has to offer without paying too many dues to earn them.
Meantime, Canadian Alex Tagliani turned some of the fastest times recorded at the Speedway this week and is favoured for the pole Saturday, along with Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. All three were over 228 miles an hour Friday.
James Hinchcliffe was 16th fastest and Paul Tracy was 23rd.
Starting positions 1 through 24 will be set during traditional four-lap qualifying runs between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday. The top 9 cars from that session will transfer into the final session from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Those nine drivers will have their earlier speeds erased and they will then be able to make unlimited runs for the pole until the session ends.
Pole for the Indy 500 will go to the fastest driver from the final session, and the top 9 will also be set from that session. On Sunday, qualifying goes from 12 to 6 p.m.to set positions 25 though 33.
Simona De Silvestro, who was burned on both hands in a practice crash on Thursday, was not allowed to practice Friday. If still unable to drive Saturday, her team might hire a driver to try to qualify her car for her. She would then be able to drive the car in the 500, although she would have to start at the back of the pack.