An unexpected early pit stop dropped Scott Speed from the lead to the back of the pack.
Instead of pressing and trying to rush back to the front, he took his time, picking his way through the field to the lead.
It earned Speed his first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory.
Speed overcome a problem with his window net on the 16th lap, passing Jesse Smith with six laps left to win the Kansas Lottery $150 Grand at Kansas Speedway on Friday — his first victory since leaving Formula One last year.
“I don’t let things I can’t control effect me emotionally when I’m driving, so obviously something like the window net you can’t help that,” Speed said. “I just tried to make the best decisions after that as we could.”
Speed received financial backing to race in Europe in 2002 after winning the Red Bull Driver Search, a program designed to find an American driver to compete in Formula One. The 25-year-old driver from Manteca, Calif., landed an F1 ride in 2006 with Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s sister team, but was fired midway through last season.
Speed finished seventh in his lone ARCA start last year at Talladega and plans to race as much as he can, including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race here today, in hopes of landing a NASCAR ride down the line.
“Every lap I make on the track with other right now is beneficial,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing so many races, why we’re pushing so hard because this is where I’m learning the most.”
Speed started Friday’s ARCA race on the front row and led the first 16 laps before being forced to pit row because his window net came down. He dropped back to the back of the 40-car field and gradually worked his way up, finally retaking the lead coming out of a restart after a spinout with 11 laps left led to a caution.
“It’s certainly great to win a race — it’s been a while — but at the end of the day the most important thing is that we learned something because the goal is to be successful in (Sprint) Cup and this is a step toward that,” Speed said.
Smith held the lead three times, trading places with Robb Brent the last half of the race. The former ASA late-model driver got a little too excited coming out of a caution and spun his wheels with four laps left, costing himself and second-place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. a chance at catching Speed.
“ASA, they don’t allow you to shift and that’s a really big part (of ARCA),” Smith said. “My first time really being able to shift last week. You really don’t get to do it very much when you’re pulling out. I was trying to get (a little faster) along the back straightaway, but it’s not the same as taking off from the slow speeds.”
Speed edged Roush Fenway Racing’s Stenhouse by 0.791 seconds. Smith finished third, and Michael Annett, who led 29 laps early in the race, was fourth. Brent held the lead three times and finished fifth, and Jeremy Clements was sixth.