SCOTT SPEED:"My motor racing IQ and motor racing experience carries me through"
A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of sitting down with Scott Speed at the penultimate race at the Glen Helen raceway in California to find out what his secret is to his record breaking wins (20 to date) in rallycross and being a 4-time Rallycross champion (2015-18) and a 3-time X Games Rallycross gold medalist (2013-15). We also talked about the Nitro Rallycross tracks that are raising the bar in the sport of rallycross and his take on simulated racing, specifically iRacing and his involvement in some of the development.
RX360: HOW MUCH ARE YOU ENJOYING THESE NITRO RX TRACKS?
SS: They've been amazing. It's been really cool to go to different places. It's been a nice change for rallycross. When you see this on tv or social media the coverage is just ridiculous and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
RX360: MANY FANS WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOUR SECTRET IS TO ALWAYS WINNING OR BEING ON THE PODIUM TIME AFTER TIME.
SS: Oh I don't know, I've grown up in super high level motorsports, I got to race against some of the best in the world in different categories and although my rallycross experience isn't maybe as much as other guys, I think my motor racing IQ and motor racing experience is a lot of what carries me through. For rallycross the biggest thing is that bad stuff is happening out there. It's not normal motor racing. You're going to have unlucky races and by the time you go to the first corner, it's kind of a lottery. So when things go bad I think I do a really good job of not compounding the mistakes and just taking what's given me and really driving in the present. There are a lot of great guys [racing in Nitro Rallycross]. This year is a lot different, as well. With all these jumps there are guys that are more aggressive and the guys that are willing to take more risk are rewarded and that's not necessarily me. I'm fortunate to have the best jumper in the business with Pastrana on the team to sort of help. There's still some advantage to guys who are either super super aggressive or guys who are just really good at jumping like Travis.
RX360: WHICH ARE YOU?
SS: I'm a tactician man, I'm technical. I like the more technical tracks. This is my least favorite of the tracks because this is just a kind of sending it as far as you can on the jumps and that's rewarding you and that's not really my deal. I'm never really going to be the bravest guy out there but typically I'd like to think I'm really one of the smartest and one of the most precise.
RX360: YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FLORIDA TRACK YET BUT WHICH TRACK SO FAR HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE?
SS: I really liked both ERX and Phoenix equally. I thought they were amazing. Different in their own ways but they were a lot of fun, and Utah was okay too but it was really hard to race because it was so dusty. I am really looking forward to getting onto some tarmac, that would be nice. Everything has been 100% dirt. I look forward to the mix. I enjoy the different driving styles that you have to have on the different surfaces.
RX360: DO YOU USE THE SAME SPOTTER THAT YOU'VE HAD IN PAST RALLYCROSS SERIES?
SS: Peter is my spotter and he was my spotter in 2019 as well.
RX360: DO YOU LIKE MORE OR LESS CHATTER IN YOU EAR?
I just like info that I can't see. Peter is super calm and he gives me as much information that I can't see. He paints me a better picture so I probably like more information, mostly what's happening behind me, where cars are around me. I typically decide the joker myself. He typically gives me lots of great information as to where the cars are, paces, gaps, etc.
RX360: YOU'VE BEEN IN RALLYCROSS FOR A WHILE, DO YOU STILL THINK THERE ARE THINGS YOU COULD IMPROVE UPON?
SS: Right now it's just jumps. Every track there has been a lot of them.
RX360: DO THE JUMPS STILL MAKE YOU A LITTLE NERVOUS?
SS: It did at the beginning for sure but I'm less and less nervous as we run this year. There's no question that at the beginning of the year it was really tough with the very recent memory of a really bad landing so that doesn't help. (In August of 2019, Scott suffered from a broken back after a bad landing at the end of a jump at the Utah Motorsports Campus during a standalone event for Nitro World Games.)
RX360: WE ARE GLAD YOU'RE BACK IN THE CAR
SS: Yeah, so am I.
RX360: ANY OTHER TYPES OF RACING YOU WOULD LIKE TO TRY?
SS: Well, I would never do Indy Car but all my in-laws are drag racers. My father-in-law is like a legend in America, winning around eleven championships. And my brother-in-law, Matt Smith, has just won his fifth Pro Stock motorcycle NHRA championship a few weekends ago. So at some point they will get me out on a dragstrip with them, maybe not racing, but I'd definitely like to go out there and take a couple of trees with them.
RX360: DO YOU RIDE MOTORCYCLES?
SS: Motorcycles, no. It would definitely be in a car. I'm very bad on two wheels. I can ride my bicycle but [drag racing] would definitely be in a car.
RX360: WE WANT TO TOUCH ON iRACING. WE HEARD YOU DO SOME iRACING.
SS: I have in the past. It's intermittent but I haven't done too much this year. I helped develop the car, the Beetle and the Subaru. I worked with the folks at iRacing to help develop that chassis. I think they did an amazing job, it's extremely realistic. I like that folks have the chance to get on there and drive a rallycross car in iRacing because it's very realistic and for most people it's very hard to drive in the beginning with 4-wheel drive, low grip. It's a very different driving style. So for people to have a chance to virtually experience that is great.
The big difference in iRacing, the physics are similar, the driving styles are very similar and what I do in the cockpit is all very similar, but the big difference is that if a kid wants to stay on there all day and run 3000 laps he can. So you end up finding the last two percent, which doesn't exist in real life. We are out here trying to go from 30% to 95% and the guy that got to 95% wins. But in iRacing you gotta get to 99.9% so you have to spend all of those laps and hours to just fine tune. So what it does and what I don't like is that it basically keeps kids in their basement for hours and hours racing fine tuning stuff that doesn't exist in real life.
RX360: DO iRACING SKILLS TRANSITION OR TRANSLATE VERY WELL TO REAL LIFE RACING?
SS: I think there's some stuff for sure. Like now, these days, guys that want to learn rallycross can get a huge head start on that because the physics are really similar. It's definitely a great tool. You learn a lot, if they had the actual courses it would be even better but certainly the handling and how you drive the car is very similar.
The iRacing community is a passionate community and the cool thing about it is that it doesn't cost a lot. But the bad thing about it is the time that's required to spend on it. Gosh you're missing life, you need to be out in the sun, you need to be out physically doing stuff.
RX360: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US.
SS: My pleasure, thank you