Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen struggled throughout practice for the Camping World Truck race at Charlotte, North Carolina with his truck constantly breaking loose and even hitting the wall in the final session but he did enough to qualify in 31st place.
In the early laps of the race he again hit the wall, fortunately without too much damage. RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen complained over the radio during the race that each time he had run consistently for a few laps and managed to get the Toyota Tundra handling well a caution flag would be thrown and he’d have to start again with a loose truck when the green flag was waved.
A misheard communication meant he missed coming on to pit road during the second caution so the team decided to leave him out on track. He had reached the point when he needed to make a green flag stop on lap 51, which would have cost him dearly putting him a lap down, when a fortuitous yellow was shown because of none other than his boss, Kyle Busch, spinning.
That piece of good fortune meant RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen was back on to the same pit stop sequence as everybody else. Those who pondered aloud whether Busch’s spin was in anyway intended to help RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen seriously underestimate Busch’s competitiveness. Nothing matters as much to Busch as winning, as we were to see before the evening was out.
RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen was concerned that he was struggling to keep the truck running in a straight line a lot of the time but he only had to look at the first three drivers to spin in the race, multiple champions Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday plus Busch who has won four of the six races he has entered this year. If they were struggling with all their skill and experience RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen was more than entitled to find it hard going in his first NASCAR race.
He eventually finished in fifteenth place which was a more than respectable result for a rookie. There were those who thought he would do well just to finish the race, let alone on the lead lap.
Kyle Busch won by leading just the last seven laps and felt that he needed extra help in the closing stages of the race. He said in Victory Lane after the race he felt he had an angel running with him which gave him that bit more he was looking for. On top of his car he carried the name of a young girl, Zahra Baker, who had battled with cancer before she was tragically murdered aged just ten years. Zahra came to Charlotte Motor Speedway in May last year as a guest of Speedway Children’s Charities and had been presented with an hearing aid. Her stepmother has been charged with her murder.
“I had an angel running with me that last run of the race,” Busch said. “We didn’t have the truck to beat tonight, the no. 2 [Clint Bowyer] did. Somehow I found some more out of it, and I’m going to say that I had some help tonight. It’s weird how things work, but, man, when you believe in it and you trust it and you have faith in it, it’ll repay you.”
After the race both RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen and Busch did nothing to dispel the belief that the former might run in next week’s Nationwide Series race at Charlotte although neither would confirm the fact either. Busch pointed out that his team and his crewmen were not licensed for the Nationwide races but when asked about a series car in his race shop simply said that he doesn’t own it. Of course, there is nothing to stop KBM preparing a car for someone else to run in the Nationwide with whoever that team chooses as its driver.