Kimi Räikkönen will be making a return to racing in August as he’ll take part in the NASCAR Cup series at Watkins Glen.
He’ll be driving for the Trackhouse which has created “PROJECT91”. The project is aimed at bringing international racing drivers into NASCAR for one-off runs or more.
Team owner Justin Marks spoke about the decision to get the Finn in the car for the race on August 21st.
“Kimi Räikkönen is the driver I first had in mind when we created PROJECT91,” Trackhouse owner Justin Marks said in a press release.
“Kimi is a world-renowned driver with a tremendous amount of talent and fan following. We have had long discussions, and like us, he is already hard at work preparing for Watkins Glen.”
“I’ve been a big fan of Kimi’s for a long time, I’ve followed his career since he started in Formula 1 with Sauber.”
“One of the cool moments of my career being a Formula 1 fan was being able to race against Kimi in Charlotte in 2011.
Marks also shared his thoughts with NASCAR.com: “Obviously, the 2007 F1 World Champion and the most experienced F1 driver in history, he’ll really kind of help set this program off. I’m looking forward to it. I’m bullish in our ability to be able to track the global stars of motorsport and do something really special under the Trackhouse brand with PROJECT91.”
“I think that he’s going to perform really, really well,” Marks continued.
“The program is going to be first class. He’s going to have a real opportunity to go out there and compete. This isn’t just a PR stunt. The passion I have is fueled by the vision of someone coming in and winning.”
Speaking about his racing return, the 2007 F1 World Champion admitted he wasn’t too interested initially, but was persuaded by Marks when he visited Räikkönen’s home in Switzerland.
The Finn says a one-off event is perfect for him and his family.
"I don't remember when was the first time, the whole kinda talks came on the table... maybe it was last year, the end of last year at some point or even earlier.
"I knew something is maybe going to come up; at first I wasn't really looking at it in a very serious way."
“We had more talks about it, how would it work, where the race would be, and all sorts of other things,” he continued.
“There’s a lot of things involved, and it all made sense for me.
“It’s one race, so it made sense for all of us as a family. I always enjoyed it when I had my few races [in the US].
“Hopefully we have a good race and good fun. Obviously it’s a new car and I’ve never been at the track. But I’m sure we can figure it out.”
While it will be Räikkönen’s first appearance in a Cup Series event, he’s no stranger to NASCAR. He took part in one Xfinity and Camping World Truck race respectively eleven years ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway, during his two-year break from Formula One.
The 42-year-old conceded that the races he did eleven years ago was a crucial factor in his decision to take the offer.
"Racing has always been nice," Räikkönen said.
"It doesn't matter what it is, if it's F1 or other categories. Obviously the F1 story is behind me, and this [NASCAR chance] came up, and it made a lot of sense in a lot of ways.
"I think without the experience there and a few races, one in the Truck and one in Nationwide, I probably wouldn't be that interested. That was obviously on an oval, this is now on a road course. I'm looking forward to it, to having good, close racing, and on the road course, maybe have some chance at least to maybe do something."
While admitting he had opportunities to race earlier in the year, he wants everything to be spot on to do the best he can in the race at Watkins Glen.
"I think it was better to wait until this race, so we can prepare for everything and at least have done the work 100% right," he said.
"What the outcome is, nobody knows. We'll at least give ourselves the best chance that we can."
After that, what could the future hold? He has no other plans in the pipeline… for now.
"I don't know, nobody knows," he stated.
"We'll try to do a good race there and enjoy it, and see what the future brings. I have no other plans. That's what I have right now. We'll go from there."
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