BRISTOL — It was as a diverse a group of racing talent as anywhere in the world for Saturday’s Global Rallycross event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Drifting champion, NASCAR driver, Formula One veteran, Hollywood stunt man and TV show host — all of these competed and that just covered two drivers — Tanner Foust and Scott Speed.
“If you break it down, we have supercross champions, freestyle racing champions and innovators in almost every action sport there ever was from skateboarding to BMX,” Foust said. “We have people on their social media, if you follow twitter and facebook, is in the hundreds of millions. It’s an interesting group for sure.”
Speed, who won the first race of the nine-race schedule at X Games Brazil, has one of the most varied backgrounds in motorsports.
The 30-year-old driver has 28 starts in the Formula One Series and 115 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, including six at Bristol. He also won a NASCAR Truck Series pole position on the high-banked track, which was modified with a jump and a gravel path through the infield for Saturday’s race.
“When I was a kid racing go-karts aiming for Formula One, I never could have envisioned a future which I would be winning a gold medal in the X-Games,” Speed said. “Life has been an incredible journey for me and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have driven so many great kinds of automobiles in so many great racing series. This is one of them.
“As a kid growing up there was always NASCAR and Formula One, but GRC and rally cars in this environment is the future of motor racing.”
Speed bases it on GRC’s research which show its primary demographic between the ages of 12 and 25. Foust added it’s why so many car makers like Ford, Dodge, Subaru and Mitsubushi are already involved in the sport with Chevrolet scheduled to join the mix at X Games Los Angeles.
“We have as diverse a group of drivers and diverse a type of manufacturers involved as any motor sport,” Foust said. “It appeals to a young demographic so all of the sponsors are interested in that group.
“I go to a meeting to Ford in front of pretty high up corporate people and my uniform is my logoed-up shirt, my skater shoes and my flat-billed cap. That’s amazing how it appeals to the young demographic.”
For Speed, he explained how bringing a rally car to a sponsor’s place of business is different than bringing other types of race cars.
“If you’ve sponsored by someone, you can take this car as a show car and give people rides in the car,” Speed said. “You can make a great demonstration without a very large footprint. In a Cup car, a Formula One car or an IndyCar, that’s impossible. All you can do is start the engine. You really can’t do anything. With these cars, you can truly bring it to the people. It’s a huge advantage to this series moving forward.”
The magnitude of racing at Bristol wasn’t lost on Foust, who saw it as a key moment in series history. He attended NASCAR’s Food City 500 back in March, and knows how big Bristol ranks on the Sprint Cup schedule.
“Bristol has such a deep heritage in American racing,” Foust said. “Rallycross has been around 45 years and rally racing is one of the oldest forms of motor sports in the world, but not really popular in the U.S. It’s a mixture of international racing flavor in the heart of American racing.”
There was an international flavor to the main event with drivers from Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. It was described as a mini-Formula One with all the countries represented.
“It’s cool because the series is bit like Formula One that the world champions of the series are European,” Speed said. “The most competitive guys are the Europeans, but it’s very American with Travis Pastrana, Ken Block and the action-sports guys. You have the X Games-vibe. It’s a nice blend of the two.”