“What do I have to lose? That I’m bad in NASCAR racing? I don’t care.”
Kimi Raikkonen is a F1 World Champion driver with nothing to prove. Despite that, the 42-year-old is venturing way out to make his first-career NASCAR Cup Series start.
He’s elected for an unfamiliar path, similar to Jimmie Johnson, the 7-time NASCAR champ who recently decided to run full-time in the INDYCAR Series. Why? Just like Jimmie Johnson, because he wants to.
This weekend, Raikkonen will drive the No. 91 car fielded by Trackhouse Racing. The team has proven to be capable of winning. The car is the start of what could be a part-time effort in 2023 that sees a rotation of racers from various forms of motorsports, outside of a stock car oval background.
The driver got his first taste of a Cup car earlier this week. That test session was run at Virginia International Raceway in a car fielded by a team other than Trackhouse, per the new NASCAR testing rules.
Back in 2011, Raikkonen ran a single NASCAR Truck Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he finished 15th. He also ran a NASCAR Xfinity Series machine at the same track, finishing 27th. Both of those races were run on an oval, unfamiliar territory for the driver from Finland.
He makes his race debut on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, Raikkonen sat down to discuss his return to the world of NASCAR.
Kimi Raikkonen compares the vibes from NASCAR to F1
“It’s a lot different, than when I was here last time. It’s very relaxed, it’s completely different. The schedule is a lot different than when I was here last time,” Kimi Raikkonen said ahead of qualifying at Watkins Glen.
“What happened to many sports after COVID. They figure it out and maybe we don’t need to spend as many days over the weekend.”
“Obviously, that’s not ideal for me with practice. But, that’s how it is. And, I really like it. It’s relaxed and nice. Family atmosphere, I like it.”
“The rules are slightly different here than say what I’m used to. Very easy to talk to the other drivers. Which is maybe a bit different than where I come from and what I’m used to.”
Raikkonen isn’t worried about anything
There was a time in NASCAR where road course ringers were a real threat at road courses. That’s changed drastically as road courses became a much more important factor on the schedule.
Many drivers have come from the road racing ranks and most of them aren’t around very long. But, Kimi doesn’t care about any of that…
“I don’t see any risk. What do I have to lose? That I’m bad in NASCAR racing? I don’t care. I do it for myself. Even if I did 20 races, they all could be bad, for many reasons. But, I don’t see any negative.”
“NASCAR is not as well known [In Europe]. But, I’m sure there’s a lot of drivers that would like to have a chance. But, it’s not very easy. So, maybe it will open some doors.”
Does Kimi have more plans with Trackhouse Racing?
“There’s absolutely no plans for anything after this,” Raikkonen explained.
“I want to have fun. But, try to do as well as we can. We’ll see what comes out of it.
Kimi also talked about his first trip to Watkins Glen.
Raikkonen concluded, “It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but I enjoy that.”
“This car is a lower barrier of entry for drivers from other disciplines. It’s much more consistent with other road racing cars, globally. The transition to learn the car, is a lot more simple,” Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks stated.
“We haven’t hired one person to field this 3rd car. A lot of people have been doing time and a half to get this car to go.”
“This is really just to see what it looks like to field a part-time third car. So, this will be the only event, this year.”
“Project 91, the road courses are the ideal place to bring guys like Kimi in. Just because it’s a quicker learning curve and they can get up to speed a lot more quickly, than to go to ovals.”
“I think ultimately, Project 91 is a project that operates at all the road courses during the season. Then, potentially the Daytona 500 or Coca-Cola 600. At some point, you run so many races that you have to look at fielding a 3rd full-time car.”
“It’s potentially a 6-8 race program for next year and beyond.”