Kimi Raikkonen steers his automobile by Flip 1 throughout qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Collection auto race at Circuit of the Americas. (AP)
AUSTIN, Texas — Kimi Raikkonen has already sprayed champagne from the winner’s podium on the Circuit of Americas.
That was in 2018, when he wore Ferrari pink and scored the ultimate victory of his lengthy Components One profession at america Grand Prix.
The Finn is again in Texas, however in a a lot totally different automobile in a a lot totally different collection with very totally different racing types.
Raikkonen and fellow former F1 champion Jenson Button will drive Sunday in NASCAR’s first street course race of 2023. Raikkonen received the F1 championship in 2007. England’s Button received it two years later. They’ve 36 profession F1 victories between them.
“It’s good to be again,” Raikkonen mentioned Saturday. “It’s a beautiful place right here in Texas.”
Raikkonen will driving Trackhouse Racing’s Project91 entry that’s designed to present a seat in NASCAR to drivers from others disciplines. Button will drive the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing.
Kimi Raikkonen (AP)
Most of the common NASCAR drivers welcome the Europeans.
Ryan Blaney mentioned he needs to satisfy Button as a result of he was an enormous fan as a child. Cup eries chief Joey Logano is impressed they’re climbing into automobiles that should really feel uncommon.
“We don’t ever get the chance to stack up in opposition to these guys. They develop up racing fully totally different automobiles in several nations,” Logano mentioned. “Put me in an F1 automobile and I’m going to be misplaced. It’s nice for our sport.”
And there’s one other “street course ringer” within the subject: Sports activities automobile driver Jordan Taylor makes his NASCAR debut with Hendrick Motorsports. He certified fourth driving for injured Chase Elliott, who continues to be recovering from fractured tibia in a snowboarding accident.
Jenson Button at COTA. (Getty Photographs)
“Jordan is absolutely sturdy,” mentioned William Byron, a two-time winner this season who certified in pole place for Sunday. “It’s spectacular. The opposite guys too.”
Some drivers have questioned whether or not Taylor and the F1 guys actually know what they’re in for within the the rough-and-tumble racing within the Cup collection.
Raikkonen has some expertise with that. He made his Cup collection debut final season at Watkins Glen, and was aggressive till getting run astray on a restart. His race ended with a crash right into a tire barrier.
“In F1, open wheels for those who contact any individual you often lose a component or lose a wheel, you may’t actually take that danger … In NASCAR, you may have a bit extra nearer racing,” Raikkonen mentioned. “It makes it thrilling I suppose on the finish of the races when folks could be fairly aggressive.”
Button mentioned he’s prepared for it: “I get to race in opposition to 30 different loopy guys on the market. I’ll roll with the punches.”
Button seen some large variations instantly in Friday’s observe. First, he forgot the way to begin the automobile.
“There have been a couple of different switches I needed to put up,” Button mentioned, laughing at himself.
Then he needed to keep away from some heavy visitors.
“Individuals don’t transfer out of the way in which after they’re on a gradual lap, and also you’re on a fast lap,” he mentioned.
Button’s NASCAR debut is a part of a three-race deal to drive street programs this season. And he’s not completed switching issues up. He’s already been named one in all three drivers for NASCAR’s entry within the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Taylor would be the backup driver and driver coach for Le Mans.
Button nonetheless spends a part of the 12 months following F1 as a part of Sky Sports activities broadcast race protection.
He mentioned it was his spouse, Brittny Ward, who nudged him into looking for an entry into NASCAR. She’s an American and knew extra about NASCAR than F1 after they first met over dinner in Los Angeles years in the past.
When Button advised her he was an F1 driver, Button mentioned she requested, “Is that like NASCAR?’”
“I’m like, ‘It’s identical to NASCAR. It’s so comparable, you wouldn’t be capable of inform them aside,’” Button mentioned.
Appears like house
Mexican driver Daniel Suarez mentioned he’s pleased to be racing so near his house nation. He hasn’t seen his mom and sister for a number of months and each made the six-hour driver from his hometown of Monterrey to see him.
“It seems like house,” Suarez mentioned. “I’ve my household right here. We’ve quick automobiles too. The whole lot is trying nice.”
Suarez’s victory on the street course at Sonoma, California, final season made him the primary Mexican-born winner at NASCAR’s prime stage.
NASCAR introduced that April 5 would be the day Hendrick Motorsports can attraction the biggest mixed wonderful on one staff in collection historical past. The staff was hammered with a complete of $400,000 in fines, suspension for 4 crew chiefs, and lack of 100 regular-season factors and 10 playoffs factors for modifying air-deflecting items at Phoenix Raceway. HMS driver Alex Bowman was the Cup Collection factors chief previous to his 100-point deduction. He’s now twentieth.
Ross Chastain earned his first Cup collection win at COTA final season and celebrated by smashing a watermelon off the highest of his automobile.
On Friday, Chastain threw fruit from much, much higher: the observation deck of the racetrack’s 251-foot tower. At that peak, the fruit hit the pavement with a smack that gave the impression of a rifle shot and and virtually disintegrated on impression.
He hit the goal all 4 instances.
“The hot button is to think about somebody’s face proper there,” mentioned Chastain, who sits third within the standings and certified twelfth for Sunday’s race. “I’m simply not going to say who I imagined.”
Odds and ends
Tyler Reddick is the betting favourite to win, in accordance with FanDuel Sportsbook. He’ll begin second … Seven-time collection champion Jimmie Johnson, proprietor and driver at Legacy Motor Membership, will make Austin his second begin in a 10-race part-time schedule. Johnson referred to as the Circuit of the Americas a “bucket listing” monitor for him and mentioned he’s wished to race right here because it opened … IndyCar driver Conor Daly will drive the No. 50 Chevrolet for The Cash Staff earlier than returning to open-wheel racing with Ed Carpenter Racing at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2. He’s the primary driver to strive such a “Texas Two-Step” between the 2 collection.
AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports