He finished third with two wins in the ARCA Series championship in 2008 while grooming for his new job, and he comes into his rookie season with one of the best teams in the sport. Speed talked about his transition to stock cars recently. Here are excerpts from that interview:
Q: What do you expect this year?
A: We definitely learned some stuff toward the end of the year. Miami was a big success for us. I think that we improved on that. Jimmy (Elledge, crew chief) and I, we're communicating. He definitely has a better feel for what I want and what I need. We're able to get it. That's definitely encouraging going into the year.
Q: After spending so much time in Europe, are you glad to be back in the U.S.?
A: The more I'm over here and the more I'm spending time over here, I am certainly enjoying it a lot.
Q: Will your flashy style help or hurt you being accepted in the garage area?
A: I think that out of everyone I've met and everyone I've been around, I've gained, for the most part, people's respect. And that is important to me. I really believe that there is a ton to learn. I'll probably never be as good as a guy like Jimmie Johnson, but just having the opportunity to try this whole new form of racing, it's one of those things where if I go in here and I'm not successful and I can't make it, I'm still OK. I've accomplished enough in racing, but this is a huge opportunity to be able to try this.
Q: Have you picked up stock cars quicker than you thought?
A: No. We won a race in a truck at Dover. Were we the best truck driver out there? By no means. I'm way better than I was when I won that. We were in good equipment the whole time. We had really good results. We had really good equipment in the ARCA championship; we won some races. Great. It doesn't really account for how much I've learned or how good I am. I'm certainly better now than I was at the end of last year. I'm improving every time by a fair step.