The open-wheel/NASCAR pipeline appears to be active and booming once more as Jacques Villeneuve adds a Daytona 500 to his résumé and Kimi Räikkönen prepares for his maiden Cup Series start. Now, Daniil Kvyat wants to join his fellow Formula One alumni in stock cars.
Kvyat attended this past weekend’s Cup race at Road America as a guest of Team Hezeberg, who fields the #27 Ford for Loris Hezemans and Villeneuve. A longtime fan of the sport, Kvyat previously stopped by Martinsville Speedway to put out feelers and has driven a Whelen Euro Series car, the latter of which’s EuroNASCAR PRO championship was won by Hezemans in 2021.
Speaking with FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass on Saturday, Kvyat confirmed he has received approval from NASCAR to race if he finds a ride, which he hopes to do in order to run a Cup road course event.
“This is different but a very fascinating world for me,” Kvyat told Pockrass. “I always really liked NASCAR and was very curious about it. In fact, I was at Martinsville last year to watch the race, now this year I came to look for opportunities to race here. I think something might come alive very soon, hopefully, and soon you will see in a NASCAR Cup car.”
“We kind of started talking with Josh (Reaume, technical partner of Team Hezeberg) and his team a couple of months ago. It seemed like there was an opportunity here, they’re willing to give me a shot here. It would be amazing to have an opportunity here in NASCAR, to show my face here and thrive here most importantly because I obviously want to do the talking on the track and to start getting experience here.
“I’m trying to see how the race weekend goes with the team, how the driver works, what is the amount of track time, those little details so that it’s not a big surprise once it’s my turn to drive.”
Kvyat raced in Formula One with Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing from 2014 to 2020, during which he notched two podiums and a best championship finish of seventh in 2017. He left the Red Bull organisation after a fourteenth-place points finish with AlphaTauri in 2020 and became a reserve for Alpine F1.
For 2022, he was to début in the FIA World Endurance Championship with G-Drive Racing before the FIA imposed penalties upon Russian entities and drivers for their country’s invasion of Ukraine. Kvyat spoke out against the conflict but also described the FIA’s rulings, which included prohibiting Russian drivers from racing under their nation’s flag, as discriminatory and unfair. Many Russian drivers lost their seats in international series like fellow F1 competitor Nikita Mazepin, who has since switched to off-road.
While NASCAR is tied to the FIA through liaison ACCUS (Automobile Competition Committee for the United States), it is a privately run sanctioning body not required to follow FIA rulings. Besides, nationalities do not carry especially significant weight in the American-based Cup Series compared to international events.
There are three more Cup road course races for Kvyat to target: Indianapolis Motor Speedway on 31 July, Watkins Glen International on 21 August, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on 9 October. While such tracks are no-brainers for someone who grew up in circuit racing, he is more than open to doing ovals.
“I think the most sensible idea would be to race on a normal road course track because that’s the one I’m most familiar with,” he continued. “But of course, one day, I would like to do the full-time programme here. So it would be great to start getting experience on the ovals. I’m really open-minded, I always really like NASCAR. One day, hopefully, I can do the full season and hopefully one day win it.”
If Kvyat is able to race in 2022, the Cup Series will feature four F1 drivers as he joins Räikkönen and Villeneuve as well as Tarso Marques, who is also aiming to début at Watkins Glen. Also from the open-wheel world, IndyCar Series veterans Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, and Hélio Castroneves have expressed interest in NASCAR, Kanaan being in negotiations to run two NASCAR road races while Castroneves is hoping to run the 2023 Daytona 500 as a reward for winning the SRX season opener in June. Ex-Formula 2 driver Matteo Nannini is eyeing ARCA Menards Series competition.
Is it the 2000s again? Is another open-wheel invasion upon us?