Lake Speed


Lake was named after the best friend of his father, Bob Lake. Lake's father Leland L. Speed took office as the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson is the capital and the most populous city of the US state of Mississippi. It is one of two county seats of Hinds County ,. The population of the city declined from 184,256 at the 2000 census to 173,514 at the 2010 census...

 in 1948, the same year that he was born. He started his racing career at the age of thirteen racing karts, much to the displeasure of his family. Over the years, Speed won the International Karting Federation (IKF) National Championship six times and in 1978 he won the prestigious Karting World Championship
Karting World Championship
The Karting World Championship is ruled by the CIK-FIA. It takes place once a year, each year in a different country, and is kart racing's flagship event. Starting 2011, the championship will be disputed on five rounds, each of them in a different country....

 over among others, future Formula One
Formula One
Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1 and referred to officially as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile . The "formula" designation in the name refers to a set of rules with which...

 legend and icon Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna da Silva was a Brazilian racing driver. A three-time Formula One world champion, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time...

. As of 2010, Speed is the only American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to win the championship.


In 1980 after considering racing in other series such as Formula One
Formula One
Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1 and referred to officially as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile . The "formula" designation in the name refers to a set of rules with which...

Champ Car
Champ Car was the name for a class and specification of open wheel cars used in American Championship Car Racing for many decades, primarily for use in the Indianapolis 500 auto race...

, and IMSA
International Motor Sports Association
The International Motor Sports Association is an American sports car auto racing sanctioning body based in Braselton, Georgia. It was started by John Bishop, a former employee of SCCA , and his wife Peggy in 1969 with help from Bill France, Sr...

, and getting advice from current Lowe's Motor Speedway promoter, Humpy Wheeler, Speed chose to go NASCAR racing. According to Speed, "It was the highest mountain to climb." Speed's relative unfamiliarity with the NASCAR scene led him to buy his first car from someone in Chicago. Speed started nineteen races in his rookie year scoring an eighth at Darlington Speedway in his third career start. Speed also scored finishes of seventh at the spring Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway is a motorsports complex located north of Talladega, Alabama, United States. It is located on the former Anniston Air Force Base just outside the small city of Lincoln. It was constructed by International Speedway Corporation, a business controlled by the France Family, in...

 race, eighth at Talladega's fall event, seventh at Charlotte's fall event and eighth at the season ending race at Ontario Motor Speedway
Ontario Motor Speedway
The Ontario Motor Speedway, located in Ontario, California, east of Los Angeles, was the first and only automobile racing facility built to accommodate major races sanctioned by all of the four dominant racing sanctioning bodies: IndyCar Series and USAC for open-wheel oval car races; NASCAR for a ...

. Speed finished twenty-second in overall points and second to Jody Ridley
Jody Ridley
Jody Ridley is a former NASCAR driver. He won the 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award and one race at Dover International Speedway the next year, the only Cup victory for Donlavey Racing....

 in the rookie of the year standings.

In 1981, Speed again ran his own operation starting twenty-seven of the thirty-one races on the schedule. Lake was unable to qualify for the 1981 Daytona 500, but did manage to win the 30-lap consolation race, leading the race from start to finish. He scored a ninth place finish in both races at Rockingham
North Carolina Speedway
Rockingham Speedway, formerly North Carolina Motor Speedway and later North Carolina Speedway is a racetrack located near Rockingham, North Carolina...

 and at Bristol
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway, formerly known as Bristol International Raceway and Bristol Raceway is a NASCAR short track venue located in Bristol, Tennessee. Constructed in 1960, it held its first NASCAR race on July 30, 1961...

. He followed that up with a seventh in Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville Speedway is an International Speedway Corporation-owned NASCAR stock car racing track located in Henry County, near Ridgeway, Virginia, just to the south of Martinsville. At in length, it is the shortest track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The track was also one of the first paved...

's spring event, an eighth at the now-defunct Texas World Speedway
Texas World Speedway
Texas World Speedway was built in 1969 and is one of only seven superspeedways of two miles or greater in the United States, the others being Indianapolis, Daytona, Pocono, Talladega, Auto Club, and Michigan. TWS is located on approximately 600 acres on State Highway 6 in College Station, Texas....

 and a sixth in the late summer Talladega event. Speed's final top ten would come at Bristol in August where he finished seventh. The final points tally came up with Speed finishing eighteenth in points. One special footnote for Speed during the '81 season was that he enabled future NASCAR pace car driver Elmo Langley
Elmo Langley
Elmo Langley was a NASCAR driver and owner. Langley primarily used the number "64" on his race cars during his NASCAR career.-Racing career:...

 to start his 536th and final NASCAR race at Dover in the Mason-Dixon 500. Langley started 29th and finished 29th completing only six laps before a driveshaft failure.

1982 was Speed's first full year of competition on the Winston Cup circuit. This time, Speed was driving for the first time for another car owner, Roger Hamby. The beginning of the season was a struggle with Speed not obtaining a top ten finish until the eleventh race at Dover International Speedway
Dover International Speedway
Dover International Speedway is a NASCAR-sanctioned race track located in Dover, Delaware, owned by, and serving as the corporate headquarters of, Dover Motorsports, Inc. It is co-located with a harness racing track, Dover Downs, and shares the complex with Dover Downs Hotel & Casino...

. In July at Daytona, Speed scored his second top ten finish with a ninth. Speed continued to struggle as the season wrapped up managing to finish sixth in the Southern 500
Southern 500
The Showtime Southern 500 is the annual spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race held at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, USA, and is the second such event at Darlington to bear the name. It began in 1957 as a race in the Convertible Division, known as the Rebel 300. In 1966, the race was...

 at Darlington and eighth at the fall event in North Wilkesboro Speedway
North Wilkesboro Speedway
North Wilkesboro Speedway was a short track that held races in NASCAR's top three series from NASCAR's inception in 1949 until its closure in 1996...

. Speed finished twentieth in points.

1983 was a year of major change for Lake Speed. He was now driving for an established owner in Hoss Ellington
Hoss Ellington
Hoss Ellington is a retired NASCAR driver and team owner. He made 31 starts as a driver between 1968 and 1970 in the Grand National ., finishing in the top 10 four times, all in 1969. He later became a successful team owner, with five wins, four of them by Donnie Allison and the other one by David...

, however on a limited schedule. The team showed promise early in the season scoring a fourth at Rockingham and a sixth at Darlington. It was at Talladega where Speed's life took a major change. Towards the race's end, Speed was leading the field with a chance to win his first Cup race. He was beaten at the end by Richard Petty
Richard Petty
Richard Lee Petty is a former NASCAR driver who raced in the Strictly Stock/Grand National Era and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series...

 and Benny Parsons
Benny Parsons
Benjamin Stewart Parsons was an American NASCAR driver, and later an announcer/analyst on TBS, ESPN, NBC and TNT...

. After the race, Speed decided to change his life and become a devout Christian on August 28. The week after Talladega, Speed scored another top ten with a sixth in the World 600 at Charlotte. Speed's final top ten of the season would be at the August Michigan International Speedway
Michigan International Speedway
Michigan International Speedway is a two-mile moderate-banked D-shaped superspeedway located off U.S. Highway 12 on more than in Brooklyn, in the scenic Irish Hills area of southeastern Michigan. The track is used primarily for NASCAR events. It is sometimes known as a "sister track" to Texas...

 race with an eighth place finish. Speed finished twenty-seventh in the points standings.

1984 was much the same. Starting nineteen of the series 30 races, Speed showed some early season strength with a third at Rockingham, a ninth at Atlanta, a sixth at Charlotte. At the first Pocono Raceway
Pocono Raceway
Pocono Raceway also known as the Tricky Triangle, is a superspeedway located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania at Long Pond...

 race, Speed qualified second and finished tenth following that strong run up with a fifth at Michigan. Speed finished eighth in the late summer Talladega race and had a near win in the Southern 500
Southern 500
The Showtime Southern 500 is the annual spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race held at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, USA, and is the second such event at Darlington to bear the name. It began in 1957 as a race in the Convertible Division, known as the Rebel 300. In 1966, the race was...

 starting second and leading twenty-eight laps before he crashed out. Speed's final top ten was at Atlanta with a seventh place finish and a points position of twenty-sixth.

Speed also started six races in the NASCAR Busch Series between 1983 and 1984. He only made one start in '83 at Charlotte in the Miller Time 300 where he finished sixth. In 1984, Speed lost by two feet to Darrell Waltrip in the season opening Goody's 300 at Daytona, and scored another top five in the Mello Yello 300 at Charlotte. Speed's worst qualifying effort was a thirteenth place start in the season opener. Speed's starts were fifth at Darlington, seventh at Charlotte, third at Darlington and ninth at Charlotte.


1985 was Lake Speed's breakout season in NASCAR. Running a full schedule under the RahMoc Racing banner, Speed started off the season with an amazing second place finish to Bill Elliott
Bill Elliott
William Clyde "Bill" Elliott , also known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville or Million Dollar Bill, is a part-time driver and former champion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Elliott was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on August 15, 2007. He won the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup...

 in the Daytona 500
Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 is a -long NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is one of four restrictor plate races on the Cup schedule....

NASCAR on CBS was a series of NASCAR races airing on CBS Sports from 1960-2000.-Races covered by CBS:*Jiffy Lube Miami 300*Michigan 400...

' pit reproter Mike Joy
Mike Joy
Mike Joy is an American TV sports announcer, who currently serves as the lap-by-lap voice of FOX Sports' NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage. His color analysts are Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds. Joy has broadcast more than 30 Daytona 500s, NASCAR's biggest event...

 conducted an interview with Speed after the race, during which the emotional driver repeatedly thanked God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 for the successful showing. He followed that up with a tenth at Richmond International Raceway
Richmond International Raceway
Richmond International Raceway is a 3/4-mile , D-shaped, asphalt race track located just outside Richmond, Virginia in Henrico County. It hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series...

 and a fourth at Rockingham, taking the points lead early in the season. After an engine problem at Atlanta, Speed scored a string of strong runs: seventh at Bristol, ninth at Darlington, ninth at North Wilkesboro, eighth at Martinsville and tenth at Talladega. Speed then finished sixth in the World 600. The stretch run of the season took its toll on the team and Speed's position in the points fell, however he continued to post strong runs finishing seventh at Talladega, tenth at Bristol, tenth at Dover and seventh and ninth place finishes at Atlanta and Riverside International Raceway
Riverside International Raceway
Riverside International Raceway was a race track or road course in Riverside, California. The track was in operation from September 22, 1957, to July 2, 1989...

 to round out the season. Overall, it was Speed's best year in terms of points notching a tenth place finish.

Speed started off the 1986 season with a tenth in the Daytona 500 and a tenth at Rockingham but after the fourth race of the season, he was inexplicably ousted from the ride. Speed would start one more race that season, filling in for the ailing Rick Wilson in his Morgan-McClure Motorsports
Morgan-McClure Motorsports
Morgan-McClure Motorsports is an American auto racing team that competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time until 2007 and now occasionally attempts races. It has been in operation for 27 years, starting in 1982. The team is most notable for running the #4 from 1983 to 2009.-Starting...

 ride at Charlotte finishing fourteenth. Shortly thereafter, Speed began working again at starting his own race team.

1987 was a building year in many ways. With sponsorship from Wynn's Car Care Products, Kmart
Kmart, sometimes styled as "K-Mart," is a chain of discount department stores. The chain acquired Sears in 2005, forming a new corporation under the name Sears Holdings Corporation. The company was founded in 1962 and is the third largest discount store chain in the world, behind Wal-Mart and...

 and Delco Battery, Speed built an entirely new race team with himself as the owner and veteran crew chief Darrell Bryant helping him build the operation. The purple and white Oldsmobile
Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobile produced for most of its existence by General Motors. It was founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In its 107-year history, it produced 35.2 million cars, including at least 14 million built at its Lansing, Michigan factory...

 donned the number 83, in honor of the year Lake became a born-again Christian. Speed was able to put up some impressive race runs in just thirteen starts. Speed finished ninth in the first Talladega race and backed that up with a third place finish in the World 600. Speed's other two top ten finished would be at the same tracks, seventh places at both Talladega and Charlotte.

The team's strong 1987 performances proved to not be a fluke in 1988. With strong support from the Hoosier tire company, Speed ran strong in the Daytona 500 before dropping out due to an engine failure. The next race at Richmond, Speed ran up front leading sixty-seven laps but finishing sixth. The following race at Rockingham, Speed again showed power leading fifty-one laps finishing second to Neil Bonnett
Neil Bonnett
Lawrence Neil Bonnett was a NASCAR driver who compiled 18 victories and 20 poles over his 18-year career. The Alabama native currently ranks 35th in all-time NASCAR Cup victories. He appeared in the 1983 film Stroker Ace and the 1990 film Days of Thunder...

. Speed's day in the sun would come March 27 at Darlington in the TranSouth 500. After starting the race eighth, Speed methotically moved his way to the front before eventually taking the lead and running away with the show. Leading 178 of the 367 laps, Speed beat Alan Kulwicki
Alan Kulwicki
Alan Dennis Kulwicki , nicknamed "Special K" and the "Polish Prince", was an American NASCAR Winston Cup Series racecar driver. He started racing at local short tracks in Wisconsin before moving up to regional stock car touring series...

 by half a straightaway to secure his first and only NASCAR Winston Cup win. One of the factors in Speed's victory was that he was the only driver who tested the Hoosier tires at Darlington. Where most of his competitors thought that the Hoosiers would blister, Lake and his team knew that they would not.
At Dover, Lake finished fourth following that up with finishes of ninth at Daytona and fifth at Michigan. In the Volunteer 500 Speed led sixty-six laps and looked like a strong contender for the race win before blowing a right front tire and hitting the wall effectively ending his day. Speed's last top ten would come at the 1988 Delaware 500 with a ninth place effort. The season ended with Speed seventeenth place in the final points rundown.

Speed had strong finishes in 1989 with a Bull's Eye Barbecue Sauce sponsorship Speed said was "worth peanuts." At Rockingham Lake took eighth and a few weeks later he finished tenth Darlington. Speed finished fifth in the inaugural event at Sears Point (now Infineon) Raceway and a seventh a few races later at Michigan. However, in the July race at Pocono, Speed was injured in a two-car wreck that also injured driver Greg Sacks
Greg Sacks
Greg Sacks is a NASCAR driver. He is married to his wife Vicky and lives in Ormond Beach, Florida. Together they had three children: Paul, Brian, and Rachel. He and his sons are partners in Grand Touring Vodka.Sacks has spent most of his career as a Research & Development driver for many NASCAR...

. Although Sacks' car overturned, Speed was injured more severely, and missed several races. This crash was featured in a 1990 video titled "Champions of the Checkered Flag". While Lake recovered from his injuries, he had several drivers drive in his place including Joe Ruttman
Joe Ruttman
Joe Ruttman , is an American former racecar driver. He currently lives in Franklin, Tenn. He actively competed in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series and is a 13 time winner in the Truck Series, the seventh most wins by any driver in the Truck...

 at Talladega, Michigan and Bristol; Eddie Bierschwale
Eddie Bierschwale
Eddie Bierschwale is a former NASCAR Winston Cup driver from San Antonio, TX. He made his Cup debut in 1983 in a car owned by his father Don. In 1985 he got a full-season ride with D.K. Ulrich and stayed with the team until the end of the 1986 season when he was let go...

 at Watkins Glen; and Rodney Combs
Rodney Combs
Rodney Combs is a former NASCAR driver. He has not been in NASCAR since 1997, when he was released from his ride in the Busch Series. Combs was born on March 27, 1950 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Combs entered NASCAR after many years on the open-wheel and short track circuit in the Midwest, racing with...

 at Darlington. Lake returned to action in the Miller High Life 400 at Richmond to finish 14th. At the final race of the '89 season at Atlanta, Lake was able to conclude a very disappointing year with a 10th place run.


In 1990, Speed started only six races with Prestone sponsorship, finishing two of them. The best finish of Lake's abbrievated 1990 season came at Talladega's Die Hard 500 with an eleventh place effort. Speed also fielded cars for short track ace Tommy Ellis
Tommy Ellis
Tommy Ellis was a NASCAR short track ace of the 1970s and 1980s. Often referred to as "Terrible" Tommy Ellis for his rough tactics, he won the National Late Model Sportsman championship in 1981 and was one of six drivers enrolled in the Winner's Circle plan at the formation of the Busch Series in...

 and Phil Parsons
Phil Parsons
Phil Parsons , is a former NASCAR driver and owner of MSRP Motorsports . He is also the younger brother of the late 1973 Winston Cup champion and former NBC/TNT commentator Benny Parsons. Years later, he returned to the Busch Series, where he enjoyed modest success...

 in two races. Ellis started the Delaware 500 at Dover in 31st and finished 32nd after an engine failure. In the National 500 at Charlotte, Parsons drove Speed's car with Baja Boats sponsorship to an 18th place run. 1991 was an improvement in terms of races started. Speed replaced Dick Trickle
Dick Trickle
Richard "Dick" Trickle is a retired American race car driver. He raced for decades around the short tracks of Wisconsin, winning many championships along the way. Trickle has competed in the ASA, ARTGO, ARCA, All Pro, IMCA, NASCAR, and USAC.In more than an estimated 2,200 races, Trickle has logged...

 in Cale Yarborough
Cale Yarborough
William Caleb "Cale" Yarborough , is a farmer, businessman and former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver and owner. He is one of only two drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive championships...

's car but struggled with mechanical failures throughout his stint with the team. In twenty starts, Speed's best finish was an eleventh at Bristol in August. In 1992, Speed got back to his own team starting just nine races with Purex as his sponsor. The team suffered several mechanical failures and Speed only managed to have a best finish of eighteenth in the final two races of the season at Phoenix and Atlanta.

After driving his own car during a handful of races in the 1993 season's first half, Speed was called to drive for Robert Yates Racing, filling in following Davey Allison
Davey Allison
David Carl "Davey" Allison was a NASCAR driver. He was best known for driving the #28 Texaco-Havoline Ford for Robert Yates Racing in the Winston Cup Series. Born in Hollywood, Florida, he was the eldest of four children born to Bobby Allison and wife Judy...

's death. Speed qualified fourth at Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen International is an auto race track located near Watkins Glen, New York, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake. The facility is owned by International Speedway Corporation...

. He followed that up with a second place start at Michigan and a seventh place finish. The next race at Bristol, Speed was running a strong race before contact late with Rick Mast
Rick Mast
Rick Mast is a former NASCAR driver. He competed in both the Winston Cup and Busch Series before retiring in 2002...

 ruined his chances at a top ten finish. After Bristol, Speed was replaced by Ernie Irvan
Ernie Irvan
Virgil Earnest Irvan, more commonly known as Ernie Irvan is a former race driver in NASCAR. He is best remembered for his comeback after a serious head injury at Michigan International Speedway which earned him numerous awards and respect from his fellow drivers...

. It was two races later at Dover where Speed found another ride, this time replacing Geoff Bodine
Geoff Bodine
Geoffrey Eli Bodine is an American motorsport driver and bobsled builder. He is the oldest of the three Bodine brothers . Bodine currently lives in Cornelius, North Carolina....

 who had departed from Bud Moore
Bud Moore
Bud Moore may refer to:* Bud Moore , American football player and coach* Bud Moore , former NASCAR owner**Bud Moore Engineering, his team* Bud Moore , former NASCAR driver...

's Ford to drive his own team which he purchased following Alan Kulwicki
Alan Kulwicki
Alan Dennis Kulwicki , nicknamed "Special K" and the "Polish Prince", was an American NASCAR Winston Cup Series racecar driver. He started racing at local short tracks in Wisconsin before moving up to regional stock car touring series...

's death. Speed's best finish for Moore at the end of the '93 season was an eleventh at Charlotte.

Speed remained with Moore for the 1994 season starting off with finishes of sixth at Atlanta, fifth at Darlington and third at Bristol, moving up to fifth place in the points. Two races later, Speed finished seventh at Talladega. It was during this time that Speed was inducted into the karting hall of fame. Speed would have to wait until the July Daytona race to get another top ten finish, a tenth. Speed and the team ran good through the summer stretch, often starting near the rear of the field but moving to the front. Unfortunately, Speed did not manage a top ten finish until Dover where he finished ninth. In the final four races, Speed had three great runs. A fifth at Charlotte, a tenth at Rockingham and a fourth at Atlanta where he led twenty laps. It wasn't enough for Speed to finish in the top ten in points. He finished eleventh behind Bill Elliott
Bill Elliott
William Clyde "Bill" Elliott , also known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville or Million Dollar Bill, is a part-time driver and former champion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Elliott was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on August 15, 2007. He won the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup...



Speed moved over to Harry Melling's
Harry Melling (NASCAR)
Harry Melling was the team owner of Melling Racing, which won the 1988 NASCAR championship with Bill Elliott.- Background :...

 team for the 1995 season and resurrected the organization. The normally red and white Melling car now was embazoned with Spam
Spam (food)
Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation, first introduced in 1937. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite as a preservative...

 sponsorship and blue and yellow colors. Lake had two top ten runs, at Charlotte in the Coca Cola 600 and at Darlington in the Southern 500
Southern 500
The Showtime Southern 500 is the annual spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race held at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, USA, and is the second such event at Darlington to bear the name. It began in 1957 as a race in the Convertible Division, known as the Rebel 300. In 1966, the race was...

 to finish twenty-third in the points rundown. However, the 1995 season provided Speed with what is perhaps his most famous moment. After the Miller Genuine Draft 400
Miller Genuine Draft 400
At one time, two different NASCAR races were known as the Miller Genuine Draft 400:* Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400, at Michigan International Speedway from 1990 to 1995* Air Guard 400, at Richmond International Raceway from 1990 to 1995...

, Michael Waltrip
Michael Waltrip
Michael Curtis Waltrip is a semi-former professional race car driver, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, and a published author. He is the younger brother of three-time NASCAR champion and racing commentator Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500; having won the race in...

 blocked Speed's car in the pits. Waltrip, angry with Speed for blocking him on the track, pulled down Speed's window net and began throwing punches at Speed, who was wearing his helmet. The incident was broadcast in front of a live television audience on the CBS network and resulted in a $10,000 fine for Waltrip, as well as much embarrassment for him.

During the 1996 season, Lake earned his first career NASCAR pole, albeit in a non-points event, The Winston Open. At the Miller 400 at Michigan, the normally blue and yellow Spam Ford was graced in red, white and gold in honor of 50 years of Melling's parts company being in operation. Lake and the Melling Racing team notched an eighth at Pocono in the Miller 500. Lake stunned everyone in qualifying for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis with an astounding third place effort. During the race, Lake made a daring three wide pass to take the race lead. The finishing order saw Lake finish 13th after leading two laps. At the second race in Michigan, the GM Goodwrench Dealer 400, Lake led seven laps and looked poised to possibly capture his second NASCAR Winston Cup victory before getting caught up in a wreck started by Sterling Marlin. Though Speed qualified poorly for the Southern 500
Southern 500
The Showtime Southern 500 is the annual spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race held at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, USA, and is the second such event at Darlington to bear the name. It began in 1957 as a race in the Convertible Division, known as the Rebel 300. In 1966, the race was...

, he quickly moved his way through the field. Just as he neared running in the top ten, a right front tire cut and Lake had to pit under the green flag, losing two laps. However, the strength of the car would prove itself as Lake worked his way back to finish 10th, his final top ten finish in his career.

After the University of Nebraska backed out on their sponsorship, Speed and Melling ran a limited 1997 season. Lake qualified for all 25 races he attempted. Lake and the team raced to a solid 12th place finish in the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond, then followed that up with a superb sixth place qualifying effort at Atlanta. During the mid-point of the season, the 9 car was filmed for the TV movie Steel Chariots. In the Miller 400 at Michigan, Lake earned he and the team's best finish of the season, an 11th. A few races later, Lake finished 12th in the Brickyard 400. At Richmond in the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400, Lake looked to have one of the stronger cars, leading three laps through a series of green flag pit stops. However during the stop, the crew bolted the left side tires on the right side and the right side tires on the left, forcing Lake to make multiple pit stops and dropping him out of a chance of having a good finish. A few races later, Lake had a solid 14th place run at Martinsville in the Hanes 500. The Melling team was able to get sponsorship for the last four races of the season from Advantage Camo, the best finish being 17th at Rockingham's AC Delco 400. Lake finished 35th in the points standings.

1998 would be Lake Speed's final Winston Cup season. Speed secured sponsorship from the Cartoon Network
Cartoon Network
Cartoon Network is a name of television channels worldwide created by Turner Broadcasting which used to primarily show animated programming. The channel began broadcasting on October 1, 1992 in the United States....

. Speed's best finish of the season was at Daytona in the Daytona 500
Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 is a -long NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is one of four restrictor plate races on the Cup schedule....

 where he tangled with John Andretti
John Andretti
John Andretti is an American race car driver. He has won in CART, IMSA GTP, Rolex Sports Car Series and NASCAR. He was the last NASCAR driver to win a Cup race for the famous Petty Enterprises team.-Andretti family:...

 with two laps to go bringing out the yellow flag that effectively won the race for Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt
Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was an American race car driver, best known for his involvement in stock car racing for NASCAR...

. The 1998 season proved to be a real struggle for Lake and the Melling Racing team. It appeared as if the team was struggling with the new Ford Taurus bodies, and that translated to some terrible luck. At Sears Point Raceway
Infineon Raceway
Infineon Raceway, formerly Sears Point Raceway, is a road course and drag strip located on the landform known as Sears Point in the southern Sonoma Mountains near Sonoma, California, USA. The course is a complex series of twists and turns that go up and down the hills...

, Speed appeared to have a chance to turn his season around. He was strong during the first practice session with the second fastest speed behind Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon
Jeffery Michael "Jeff" Gordon is a professional NASCAR driver. He is the driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger/DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet Impala. He is a four-time Sprint Cup Series champion and a three-time Daytona 500 winner. He is third on the all-time wins list, with 85 career wins, and has the...

. In the second practice session, Speed ran over debris thrown on the track by a car who had got off course, cut a tire and slammed into one of the tire barriers breaking his sternum. Speed missed the event and was replaced by Butch Gilliland
Butch Gilliland
Butch Gilliland is a former NASCAR Winston Cup and Craftsman Truck Series driver from California. He was the 1997 Winston West Series champion and based on the west coast. All of his 10 Cup starts came at either Infineon Raceway or Phoenix International Raceway and all 12 of his Truck Series...

, but he returned to the next race at New Hampshire
New Hampshire International Speedway
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a oval speedway located in Loudon, New Hampshire which has hosted NASCAR racing annually since the early 1990s, as well as an IndyCar weekend and the oldest motorcycle race in North America, the Loudon Classic...

. Unfortunately, Speed was caught up in a wreck not of his own making and aggravated his injury. After the race, Speed felt it best for the team to find another driver. Speed stepped aside and was replaced by Jerry Nadeau
Jerry Nadeau
Jerry Nadeau is a retired race car driver from Danbury, Connecticut. Nadeau competed in the 1994 Barber Dodge Pro Series and the 1996 Formula Opel Euroseries.-NASCAR career:Nadeau's NASCAR career began in 1995 in the Busch Series...

. With Speed's age being against him and a push for younger drivers, Speed effectively retired from NASCAR racing. Though Lake only made 16 starts during the '98 season, he still finished 43rd in the points standings.

After Retirement

In 2006, the International Kart Federation established the Lake Speed Achievement of Excellence karting award in honor of the 1978 World Karting Champion. The award was presented for the first time at the IKF 2-Cycle Sprint Grand Nationals August 3–6 at Fontana, California. The inaugural recipient was Matt Johnson of Las Vegas, Nevada. Nick Johnston of Northridge, California was awarded the honor in 2007. The award went to Taylor Miinch in 2008. And the recent 2009 winner of the award goes to Mike Botelho Jr. of Reno, Nevada. The recipient of the award could be a driver, team, kart shop or any combination thereof, and the winner is determined primarily on sportsmanship, achievement and professional appearance during the race event.

Today, Speed resides in Kannapolis, North Carolina with his wife Ricé. Speed has four grandchildren by Lake Jr., his son from his first marriage. The couple also have two daughters and a son: Sara Ann, who has recently been married to Seth Arey and is residing in Concord; Maurie, a graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in theater arts; and Chris, the other child... On occasion, Speed still drives karts, and has four wins in Historic Stock Car Racing Association events on Daytona's 3.56-mile road course in 2002 and 2003 driving one of his old 83 Purex-sponsored Ford vehicles.

Lake currently races in the World Karting Association National Road Racing Series schedule, in the Spec 125 TaG 1 and 2 classes.
On July 30, 2010 Lake Speed was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame
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