With 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen set for his maiden NASCAR Cup Series start at Watkins Glen International in August, speculation has run deep in the NASCAR community about other drivers with little to no stock car racing experience potentially doing one-off starts. While organisations like Räikkönen’s new employer Trackhouse Racing Team and Team Stange Racing are eager to provide such opportunities, NASCAR recognises that even the most decorated non-stock car racer should know what they are doing should they decide to dabble.
NASCAR has notoriously stringent testing rules, and the sanctioning body is not afraid to clamp down on teams it views as bending such laws regardless of background. Nevertheless, with practices only lasting fifteen to twenty minutes in a given race weekend, it would not be smart to have someone unfamiliar with stock cars only get that much before diving into an actual race.
Any driver whom NASCAR regards as possessing “elite credentials” is allowed to partake in a Select Driver Orientation Test once greenlit by NASCAR. How such a classification is determined is not publicly known, but one can assume the likes of Räikkönen, being an ex-F1 Champion, and three-time Supercars Champion-turned-IndyCar winner Scott McLaughlin would be among them, much like the driver rankings used by the FIA. IndyCar regular Simon Pagenaud, who voiced his interest in a reply to FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass tweeting the test procedure, would also likely qualify while the best player of NASCAR 99 on Nintendo 64 probably would not.
Although such tests might be high-profile, drivers are not allowed to do whatever they please as restrictions include a duration of ten hours total across a single day of testing, taking place at NASCAR/IMSA-approved courses (IMSA is owned by NASCAR), and only having one Next Gen car with no backups permitted.
Testing rules are as follows:
- The driver must be approved by NASCAR.
- The driver must have elite credentials from the highest forms of motorsports in the world.
- The driver must be entered into a NASCAR Cup Series Event(s) by a current organization actively participating in NASCAR Cup Series Events.
- Only drivers that are licensed and approved for Competition for the appropriate track type in the NASCAR Cup Series will be eligible to participate in a Select Driver Orientation Test.
- The driver must not have previously tested or competed at a similar track type in a Next Gen vehicle.
- Only one Next Gen vehicle of suitable specification for the track type at which the test will be conducted is permitted.
- A backup vehicle will not be permitted.
- The test must be conducted within 90 days of the entered Event.
- No other drivers are permitted to test or “shakedown” the vehicle.
- The organization fielding the driver at the Event may not be the primary test team, but may send up to four representatives.
- The organization conducting the test must be approved by NASCAR.
- Unless approved by NASCAR, only equipment (including the vehicle) from the testing organization will be permitted at the test.
- The organization fielding the driver at the Event will be responsible for all testing costs.
- A maximum of three sets of tires may be allocated for the test and must be ordered according to Goodyear’s protocols.
- Test engine specifications must be appropriate for the testing track type.
- The only vehicle configuration changes permitted during the test must be related to ride and handling based on driver feedback.
- Data will be limited to steering, brake pressure (front/back), throttle position, gear position, and NASCAR will provide the ECU logging configuration. No other sensors or data system may be installed on the vehicle.
- Distribution of test data will be TBD.
- Maximum test duration is one day, for a maximum of ten hours. Time starts the moment the vehicle is on-track for the first time. Additional time may be granted in the event of inclement weather or other track related issues. NASCAR must approve any time adjustments in advance of additional time being accumulated.
- The testing venue must not be at a location in which the driver is entered in an Event.
- Media may or may not be allowed, at NASCAR’s discretion.
- The organization fielding the driver at an Event(s) must submit a test request via the voucher system a minimum of three weeks prior to the test.
- If the test is approved by NASCAR, a voucher will be issued.
- The test must be conducted at a NASCAR or IMSA approved race track with NASCAR approved track services, and follow all NASCAR safety protocols.