Scott Speed’s blog: Target on my back after Memphis win

Photos: Louis Yio/Red Bull GRC
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Editor’s note: Providing a behind the scenes take during his 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) season, Scott Speed, driver of the No. 41 Oberto Circle K Beetle GRC for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross (VARX), will contribute to NBCSports.com, giving readers his view from behind the visor.

In his second blog installment, Speed looks back at winning the season opener at Memphis, while having the target on his back after winning the last two series championships. His first blog is linked here

Round 2 takes over Louisville May 20-21, with coverage of Global Rallycross’ Supercar Final airing live on NBC, Sunday, May 21, at 1 p.m. ET.

The first race is a big tell tale of how the offseason has gone. After the Memphis weekend is said and done, we’ve got the biggest advantage we’ve had yet, which is a great position to be in. That said, there’s added pressure for me. I know that the team has given me a superior car, we saw that at Memphis in Round 1. It’s my job not to mess it up when we’re running that good.

With the added pressure, I’m in a position to play defense now, staying out of trouble and keeping clean. That’s a lot different of an approach than pushing every single corner and attacking every single lap in the Oberto Circle K Beetle GRC. During the break, we’re analyzing what risks we can take where, including the rough track sections or corners.

Where we’re at, it’s different but it’s a good mindset to be in.

Leaving Memphis, I definitely feel the target on my back is growing. The competition’s gunning for us. I know every time I hit the track, everybody’s out there with stopwatches and video to try and pick up what we’re doing. We’re “that car.” Obviously being in that position, we’re doing something right.

Eventually they’re going to catch on and the things we’re doing right, they’re going to get noticed and others will improve. Everybody has a good idea about the cars around them, and other teams are going to work hard after the first race, just as we continue to do at Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross.

There’s no doubt that everyone’s going to get better and faster as the season progresses. We may see some changes to minimum weight requirements come from the series, and I expect the gap to be closed dramatically if it does. I’m anxious to see the gap close in the next race. We have to take that as it is, and hopefully we will still have an advantage over others.

Heading into Round 2, we have to have the mindset that we know it’s going to be more competitive. That the bar is raised. One mistake in a heat could cost us seven points, and we don’t have a lead in the points standings enough to afford the loss after one event. Survival is key, collecting points as much as we can. With the new format this year, you don’t have to be the fastest car to do that, which is unfortunate for us being in the position we’re in. We may have come away from Memphis with the win and leading the points championship, but it’s not a very big lead and it’s still extremely competitive.

Leaving Memphis though, it feels great to get the win. Starting off the season atop the podium with Oberto and Circle K on board is great. I’m now the winningest driving in GRC history, which is a cool stat to have. But, it’s also a championship and one race won’t make or break it.

Going forward, we have to focus on consistency and risk management, not necessarily just being the fastest car on the track. Being fast is important, but what’s more important is being consistently good and finishing well in heat races under the new format. We’re always working on the car, working to step up our game. Whether from a handling standpoint or something on-track, there’s always room for improvement. We’re going to Louisville business as usual, so every time the car comes off the track, there are ways we can make it better. That’s what we’re focused on.



Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”