Speed, VW start in “better position” to defend Red Bull GRC title

Photo: Volkwagen Andretti Rallycross

As the Red Bull Global Rallycross kicks off this week at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park outside of Phoenix (coverage begins on Sunday, May 22, at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), defending Supercars champion Scott Speed feels both he and the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team are in a better position than 12 months ago.

And the Californian who now resides in Charlotte can say so with good reason. The team entered the 2015 Red Bull GRC campaign with only one race weekend under its belt with its new Volkswagen Beetles, which debuted in the 2014 season finale.

Now, though, the team has a whole year’s worth of data on the new cars and refined many of the early season mechanical niggling issues that put Speed into an early-season hole.

An incredible run of results followed from Detroit through the season finale in Las Vegas, when Speed posted two wins (Los Angeles doubleheader sweep) and seven podiums in eight starts, to complete an epic comeback for the title.

A better start will help Speed this year, and he’s keen to deliver early so he won’t need to rely on late-season heroics for a championship comeback (parts one and two of Speed breakout story last year here).

“We’re in a much better position now than we were last year,” Speed told NBC Sports. “Everyone’s done their development over the winter.

“The first race, the first qualifying is so exciting because you see where you stack up, and see where everyone is after doing their homework.”

Speed described his team’s improvements over the winter. The Michael Andretti-owned, Volkswagen-supported team, led by team manager John Tzouanakis along with a solid core of engineers and crew, tested in Arizona prior to the event this weekend.

“We did some testing already. The cars came back (from Europe) all straightened out, beautiful and repainted,” Speed said. “We tested the new bits to improve it and I think we’ve done just that.

“Having a long offseason break means we can develop new stuff, and try bigger things. There’s some big changes in the rear of the car. We’ve had the time for the engineers to develop things, to test first. You can’t just straight bring it to the track. I think we’ve certainly achieved some improvements.”

The Phoenix doubleheader is one of four this year, so the total of eight races from those four weekends (Phoenix, Daytona, The Base and L.A.) make up a total of two-thirds of the schedule.

Last year, Speed had a nightmare Daytona where he failed to advance out of the last chance qualifier in race one and failed to finish in race two. But in the remaining three doubleheader weekends, Speed secured a maximum six podium finishes out fo six starts, including that L.A. double race win sweep.

“They are the most important because it’s so easy to start a develop a snowball going in the wrong direction,” he explained. “If you have a mistake, failure it hurt.

“But I love the fact some are singles and some are doubles. It adds an extra aspect to the season.

“For the most part last year they treated us well. But Daytona we got caught with a problem we couldn’t fix and couldn’t start either final! We’ll be prepared; it’ll be a factor in championship.”

As for Speed’s offseason? He’s been busy testing, he did a one-off Audi TT Cup race to support his Volkswagen colleagues in Hockenheim and he did a one-off commentary bow in the FIA Formula E Championship booth filling in for Dario Franchitti at Mexico City.

“I got done with seven days testing and get to be a guest driver for Audi in Hockenheim. So I’m staying busy,” Speed said.

“The commentary was very different for me actually. It was something I’d do again in the future, but it’s a very different emotion for me. It was not anything I expected, but it was fun.

“If I don’t have to carry the commentary, and be the color commentary guy and insert tidbits of info, it was good. Being able to see how the main commentator works and what he does is a big eye opener.”

But Speed isn’t resting on his laurels having been the champion last year. The focus is firmly on the next races ahead this weekend in Phoenix.

“I haven’t thought much about it. I don’t plan too far ahead,” he said.

“The goal now is to start up with the best possible result in Phoenix.”

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Houston


Eli Tomac led all 23 laps of the Monster Energy Supercross race at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and the results show he now has three wins in the season and is one shy of tying Ricky Carmichael’s 48 for third on the all-time list. With this win, he takes a seven point lead in the standings with 12 rounds remaining.

For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.

Supercross Results Houston
Chase Sexton played it safe in the sand, but he was aggressive in every other turn. – Feld Motor Sports

Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.

RESULTS: Click here for 450 Results; Click here for full 250 East Main Results

After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.

In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.

Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.

Click here for 450 Main results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points | Lap Chart

The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.

Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

In his first attempt on a 250, Max Anstie ascended to the podium. – Feld Motor Sports

England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.

It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.

Click here for 250 Main results | 250 East Rider Points | Combined Rider Points | Lap Chart

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.

Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.

Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.

2023 Results

Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Chase Sexton falls
Week 1: Eli Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s