As has been expected since he swapped Formula One for NASCAR, Scott Speed has been fast-tracked into Red Bull's Sprint Cup squad for the forthcoming 2009 campaign.
Although he has already dipped his toe into the waters following AJ Allmendinger's departure from the line-up, Speed has had to wait for confirmation of his full-time graduation to the Cup Series, where he will partner Red Bull stalwart Brian Vickers in pursuit of places in the annual Chase for the Championship.
The former Scuderia Toro Rosso driver, and long-time Red Bull protégé, was revealed as the pilot of the #82 Toyota Camry amid a flurry of announcements regarding RBRT's 2009 programme, with other personnel changes on the cards. Having rubbed fenders in both the ARCA and Craftsman Truck series, Speed drove the #84 Cup car in four races and the #83 sister machine in one other to close the 2008 season.
He now switches to the new silver-liveried #82 to contend for rookie of the year honours, having seen the team lock up a vital top 35 position in owner points, guaranteeing him a starting spot in the first five races, including the season-opening Daytona 500. After a two-year stint in the NASCAR garage, the dark blue #84 car will retire to the RBRT 'museum' also known as the race shop in Mooresville.
Speed will race under the watchful eye of returning crew chief Jimmy Elledge, while team-mate Vickers has a new man at the helm for his third season with Red Bull Racing, as Ryan Pemberton takes up the reins.
The 39-year old inherits a #83 team that earned a pole, three top five and six top ten finishes to help Vickers finish 19th in the 2008 point standings, having moved over from a similar crew chief role with David Reutimann's #44 Toyota in 2008.
“We're entering our third Sprint Cup season with driver and crew chief pairings that have what it takes to consistently compete at a high level,” insisted RBRT VP and GM Jay Frye, “Brian and Ryan are each at a point in their respective careers where they can bring home wins and make a run for the championship, while Scott earned his Sprint Cup ride by exceeding our expectations in ARCA and trucks. He has a great asset in Jimmy, who has experience working with both rookies and open-wheel drivers.”
Speed will also run a partial Nationwide Series schedule in the #99 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.