Scott Speed’s blog: Walking home a Red Bull GRC three-peat

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool

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, giving readers his view from behind the visor.

In his final installment this season, Speed reflects on the road to his third consecutive series championship (preseason, post-Memphis).

Winning again this year comes down to a ‘yes’ on consistency and improvement in reliability, no question. The car took the necessary contact with others well all year, although I obviously limited that more than most people. But, inherently, you’re still going to contact other cars, which we did and had no failures there. I had no engine failures, no anything.

The only race that we didn’t podium on was the one that we didn’t start in Canada, because we weren’t able to make the semi-final round. So, missing that caused us to not be allowed to start in the final, which cost us (about) 60 points. So realistically, when you look at the championship, no one was going to beat us this year, basically.

We did have to monitor the points a little more because of all the extra points added from the heats and semifinals. For us, it didn’t change much because we were already at the sharp end of the grid anyway. But for people who had poor qualifying or had some trouble, it kinda always kept them in the mix, points-wise. I definitely feel like it artificially brought the lower half of the field closer to the front from a points standpoint. But, for us, it didn’t really have an effect.

Winning at Indy was definitely great. There was a lot of friends and family there that weekend, so that certainly was a good one to win. I guess if you had to pick one, it’s always great when you do well in front of your home people, so there’s no question. And obviously the same with Atlantic City. It’s probably the closest race to Volkswagen HQ, lots of people were there, so it’s important.”

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool

But, from a driver’s standpoint – from my standpoint – the job never changes. Whether there’s 50 people there or a million people there, it’s still the same job. And for me, I’m very singularly focused on the task at hand. The people who come to the races, and the hometown races, those are all great, but they’re not, let’s say, ‘in the focus.’

This year, I think it played out differently than the last two. I honestly thought that after Canada, there was no chance to come back from that many points (lost). We literally gave away over 60 points. And typically, you don’t get to recover from something like that. But, we started chipping away at that lead and then Tanner (Foust) sort of had his nuclear meltdown at Atlantic City and the next thing you know the roles were reversed and we were back with a very healthy points lead as we were going into Canada.

So, it was very different in the sense I really considered we weren’t going to have a shot at the championship given how many points we lost in Canada. And almost instantly, after Indy, we gained so many points back there and had so much momentum, it was like ‘Okay, we can really do this come back.’ And then one weekend later, it completely changed to ‘Okay, now this is basically our championship. We can walk this thing home.’

As an overall group with Volkswagen and Andretti Autosport, we’re all still gelling well. It’s all status quo, really, with Tanner and I. For the last two years, it’s been really similar. Obviously we have the same kind of working relationship, and all that is certainly a feather in our team’s cap. And I think the BFGoodrich Tires are so good that no one’s really had any problems with them at all. We certainly haven’t had any problems with them for the last two years, so I don’t think that changed at all for us personally, or really anybody else.

It was great doing more with Circle K and Oberto, as they have been an amazing partner this year. I think it was definitely a difference from last year, when there was a lot more change on the car throughout the year, and that’s sort of the stability we had and that relationship has grown strong throughout the year. Obviously winning them a championship is great, that’s the ideal situation. And that relationship, and that partnership in general, is just very healthy and natural.

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool

It’s something where, similar to Rockstar, it fits into my lifestyle very well, so it’s very easy for me to represent a company like Oberto, for example, that is very healthy in nature, very active demographic of guys, and a product I naturally use in my day-to-day, which makes it a ton easier to talk about and support, because I know the product and like the product.”

We have a really fantastic fit of partners right now. And that’s easier on me, because like I said, I can just be myself and everything comes out naturally, and I feel like I represent those products well because of that.

There’s no question it’s nice to feel comfortable where you are. And to have Volkwagen, Rockstar, Oberto, Circle K, Andretti…have all these partners in the mix that all feel very comfortable and natural –  it’s definitely a positive that as a family we enjoy. And we thrive.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)