In a post on his Twitter account, Red Bull Racing driver Scott Speed said he received a termination letter from the NASCAR Sprint Cup team Nov. 24.
“On 11/24. As it happend (sic) RedBull sent me a Termination Letter, not huge surprise ...,” Speed posted on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.
Contacted by SPEED.com, a team spokesperson confirmed the driver’s release, saying: "We have exercised our rights to end the relationship at the end of 2010. We wish Scott the best of luck in his career.”
The news was expected given that Red Bull officials announced in August that the team had signed Kasey Kahne in a one-year deal for 2011 only and would not add a third car for next season. In addition, team officials said they expected Brian Vickers back full-time next year after missing the final 25 races of 2010 for treatment of blood clots in his lungs and legs.
That seemed to leave the 27-year-old Speed as the odd man out, though Red Bull officials had not definitively said the California native would be released. During an Oct. 22 press conference at Martinsville Speedway to announce that Kahne would drive for Red Bull for the final 10 races of 2010, Red Bull General Manager Jay Frye deflected the Speed status issue.
“We’ve said this for some time now that there’s performance clauses within his (Speed’s) contract and again, we don’t really get into contract discussions,” Frye said. “Our plan right now is to have two cars. We’re monitoring Brian’s health and it appears to be on course and doing great. Again, we’re also monitoring Scott and his performance, where he’s at and what’s going to happen next. We’re going to end up having, at this point, two cars and possibly three drivers. At that point, decisions will have to be made. It’s not necessarily the case that decisions have been made yet.”
Speed came up through Red Bull’s driver search and road racing program as a young racer. He made 28 starts for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One team in 2006-07. He replaced AJ Allmendinger at the Red Bull Sprint Cup team in Oct. 2008. In first full NASCAR Sprint Cup season in 2009, Speed finished 29th in driver points, but fell to 30th in 2010.
More damning, perhaps, was the fact that Speed’s No. 82 Red Bull Toyota finished 31st in owner points, compared with 26th for the No. 83 Red Bull car, which featured a host of drivers, including Vickers, Casey Mears, German DTM Touring Car driver Mattias Ekstrom, Reed Sorenson, Boris Said and Kahne.
In 2010, Speed’s best finish of the season was 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the fourth race of the year, matched by another 10th at Daytona International Speedway in July. For his Sprint Cup career, Speed has 76 starts, one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.