Speed changing career paths

BY Jeff Hammond • May 12, 2011

I am happy former NASCAR driver Scott Speed will be competing at the Indy 500 later this month.

I think the man has shown he has a ton of talent. I believe he was rushed a little bit in the stock car situation. Obviously the end result didn’t pay off the way everyone had anticipated, and he is no longer driving a stock car.

I think he will be back at home in the open-wheel cars. If you remember a few years ago, Dario Franchitti came from open-wheel cars to NASCAR. He was always a favorite of mine, and I thought he had a ton of talent.

Unfortunately, his Chip Ganassi-owned team simply ran out of the sponsorship and funding that would have allowed him to complete his learning curve over here.

He also went back to open-wheel cars and has been extremely successful in winning the Indy 500 and a championship. So I am really happy for Dario because he is a really good guy. Hopefully, Scott Speed will be able to follow in those footsteps and jump-start his career.

Fans always ask me this time of year if I ever wished I had worked on an IndyCar during the Indy 500. Trust me, any crew chief, like myself, would have loved to have been part of the mystique and magic that is the Indianapolis 500. That would have been pretty neat.

Even sweeter would have been to say you were the crew chief of a winning Indy 500 car.

I just thought it would be a really cool place to go and say you were part of the month of May experience that is Indy.

I was fortunate a few years ago to travel with Robby Gordon on qualifying day up there and it was awesome. Now I’ve been there with stock cars, but even being there on qualifying day for the open-wheel cars, it is a completely different sensation.

Just think about the legends that have been there — A.J. Foyt, the Unsers, Mario Andretti, Tom Sneva and the list goes on and on. The place is just eaten up with history. I feel the same way coming off last Saturday night’s race at Darlington Raceway.

There’s nothing polished about Darlington. It’s a rough mean ol’ racetrack. It’s always been that way. It’s a track where you have to be ready for anything because something usually happens there.

Simply put, Darlington is a character-building racetrack.

Saturday night under the Darlington lights, we saw a lot of characters come out and a character built.

Regan Smith has etched his name into the Darlington record books in a very unique fashion.

It wasn’t stolen. The young man earned it.

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