Scott Speed is too continental for an American, too American for Europeans.
A refugee of the uber-sophisticated Formula 1 series trying to regain his way, at age 25, in NASCAR's decidedly less sophisticated developmental circuits, Speed just doesn't quite fit. Not strolling pit road before ARCA qualifying at Daytona and likely not at Atlanta Motor Speedway before truck practice -- where Friday the California native will attempt to make his first start in a top-tier NASCAR series.
He has a watch guy in Switzerland and had a wardrobe from the boutiques, which is presumably where the blue pin-striped Oxford with little skull appliques came from. He's been painted as arrogant, aloof. Blunt, for certain. His white Red Bull hat is always askew above his massive bug-eyed sunglasses. He looks like Christian Bale starving himself to play John Lydon in a Sex Pistols movie.
"I've never been the type that wore slacks and a tucked-in polo at the racetrack, trying to look like a businessman when I'm a race car driver,'' Speed said. "It's ridiculous.''
But Speed is no cartoonish parody of racing ego, and his fortitude and persistence should not be underestimated. Despite his relatively young age, he's probably earned the right to be blunt. Speed reached a decidedly anti-American Formula 1 series by age 23 on merit. By age 24, he was fired. So he started over, and not with something familiar. Not fitting in, but making a go of it.
"He spends a lot of his time sticking out quite a bit,'' said Red Bull Racing technical director Guenther Steiner, who is overseeing Speed's transition from the team's F1 to NASCAR programs. "People will be saying, 'Who's this dude?' But he can race. He's not just here to be different.''