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CUP: Speed Already Black And Blue

Unless wild man Curtis Turner once did it after an all-night party at some forgotten backwater bullring, Scott Speed Friday became the first NASCAR driver to show up for a press conference with blue hair.

And that wasn’t the most unusual thing about it all.

Speed is in the Sprint Cup top 12, meaning he was required to do a formal “media availability” at Bristol Motor Speedway Friday. It was new territory for the second-year driver, who finished 35th in the point standings last season after admittedly having trouble finding his balance in a new sport.

After completing a survey of sorts among his followers on Twitter, Speed decided to dye his hair black and blue for this weekend’s racing activities. It’s more black than blue, but the cobalt blue highlights definitely stand out.

A celebration of his new status, perhaps? No, it’s just Speed being himself, which means that the unusual is the usual.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with racing, like a lot of things in my life,” Speed said of the hairdo. “It was just one of those things where I was sort of bored looking in the mirror. I had always done different things with my hair. I had a Mohawk at one time. I once bleached it all platinum white at one time.

“I had gone about a year and half, ever since I got married I guess, and sort of lost the drive to ‘fix myself.’ I got on Twitter and said, ‘What about dyeing my hair for Bristol black and blue?’ I got more responses than anything I’ve ever had. I knew Amanda (his wife) hated it and didn’t want me to do it. I said, ‘Babe, look, this is what the people want. Sorry.’

“It kind of gave me the ammunition and confidence to do it without causing too many problems at home. Amanda still hates it, and I love it.”

Speed’s Red Bull Racing team has been one of the surprises of the early season. He has had finishes of 11th at California and 10th at Atlanta and finished mid-range at Daytona and Las Vegas to land in 12th in points, a decided boost over last season, when he struggled to make the top 35.

“The start of the season has gone pretty well considering where we are,” he said. “The idea of trying to go into every race with the idea of finishing in the top 20 has been a goal – and making sure we’re in the top 35 after these first five races. We’re doing better than we thought, so evidently that was a good idea.

“I don’t think we’re going to change anything. We’ll sort of aim for top-20 finishes and stay out of all the crashes.”

Is it realistic to expect a driver who admittedly is still learning the ropes to stay in the rare air of the top 12?

“It’s a long season, for sure,” Speed said. “It’s certainly nice to be up in the points and be running well. It feels good for everyone, mostly because we’ve come a long way and we’ve made progress since we started.

“If we stay in the top 12 or if we fall back some in the points, the key is still looking one year out. We’re still going to make mistakes. It’s not exactly super-realistic to think we’re going to stay here for long, but it shows we’ve made progress and we still have more to make.”

Brian Vickers, Speed’s teammate, made the Chase for the Sprint Cup last season, and the Red Bull team’s runs late last year gave him a head start this year, Speed said.

“I think there was a very big step last year after Brian made the Chase because we started running a lot more competitively,” he said. “But we were so unlucky, so many things went wrong. But really that shouldn’t have been the case. If one or two things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.

“Now we work better as a team, as the 82 team itself. I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made. We were struggling at Vegas, and we fixed the problem for Atlanta. And my seat time helps. Really, I’m still one year out of being sort of at 100 percent of my potential here.”

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEEDtv.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.