Scott Speed upset over lawsuit
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Scott Speed is shocked and ill he was put in the position of having to file a $6.5 million lawsuit against Red Bull Racing, the organization that gave him his shot in motorsports.
The suit was filed in Statesville, N.C., last Friday, about two weeks after Speed received a termination letter from the Sprint Cup organization and about seven months after Speed says the team agreed to a three-year extension through 2013.
"They can't say 'We'll give you three more years' and then at the end of the season say 'Just kidding,'" Speed said Wednesday. "They think they have a way of getting out of my contract. I think they're crazy."
Red Bull Racing officials said prior to Speed's release there was a provision in the contract that allowed for dismissal if the driver wasn't in the top 16 in points. Speed, who finished 30th in points, said that isn't "100 percent the truth" and that proof will come out later in the process.
In addition, Speed claims in the lawsuit that Red Bull Racing did not provide sufficient funding for him to compete at a level necessary to be in the top 16. He cited layoffs before the season and other financial cutbacks that had the team below par in aerodynamics and other technical aspects.
Red Bull officials declined to comment on any aspect of the suit.
"I know we definitely were cutting the budget down," Speed said. "The package we had this year was terrible, especially in the middle of the year. We were battling back there with the Taco Bell car [underfunded team with driver David Gilliland that finished 32nd in points] when like three months ago we were running in the top 10."
Speed was released to make room for Kasey Kahne, who will drive the No. 4 for Red Bull Racing for one season before moving into the No. 5 at Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Brian Vickers, who missed most of this past season after being diagnosed with blood clots, will drive the second Red Bull car.
While shocked he was released after Red Bull invested seven years in him between Formula One and NASCAR, Speed was most upset that the organization would not give him permission to talk to other teams when it was obvious he wouldn't return to the Cup car. Speed said he repeatedly asked for permission to look around "and they wouldn't let me do it."
"They simply kept me with a sock in my mouth and hands tied behind my back until after the last race," Speed said. "With the relationship I had with Red Bull, I can't tell you how surprised I am. I am shocked."
With the release coming so late and no quality Cup rides available Speed said he is relegated to looking for a quality Nationwide or Truck Series ride in 2011, even if on a limited basis.
Meanwhile, he'll pursue what he believes Red Bull rightfully owes him for services he would have received from 2011 through 2013, in addition to $500,000 that was cut from the $1 million he was scheduled to get in 2010.
"At the end of the day, I filed the lawsuit because I have to, to take care of my family, because I don't want to have to do the same thing to my motorhome driver that Red Bull did to me and others," Speed said.
Speed was referring to the release of most of one of Red Bull's two crews after the season to make room for Richard Petty Motorsports crewmen who followed Kahne to the Toyota team.
Speed said the two teams worked most of the last month against each other knowing the least productive would be released.
"The atmosphere was tough," he said. "They were like, 'We're going to keep one team. Show us what you've got.' It should have been a reality TV show. I felt so terrible for the guys let go."
Speed says he has a very strong case and will prevail, but that doesn't remove the pain Red Bull caused him.
"I don't get it," he said. "It's the sh------- thing I've ever seen. I am very ill over it."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.