The “new open-wheel invasion” of NASCAR continues as Daniil Kvyat will enter the Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. He will drive the #26 Toyota Camry for Team Hezeberg.
A longtime NASCAR fan and ex-Formula One driver, Kvyat attended the Cup race at Road America in early July as a guest of Team Hezeberg. He befriended the team’s technical ally Josh Reaume months prior, who offered him a chance to compete in stock cars when possible.
“I’m very happy to be able to make my NASCAR Cup Series début at Indianapolis,” said Kvyat. “I have always been passionate about racing in NASCAR, the top form of motorsport in the United States. NASCAR has always been intriguing to me, as it is a pure form of motorsport to me.
“I’m looking forward to being successful in this form of motorsport and I hope to contend for wins and championships in the future. I can’t thank NASCAR, Josh Reaume, Toine Hezemans, Ernst Berg, and everybody at Team Hezeberg enough for the opportunity. The guys at the shop have been working tirelessly to prepare machine and myself for this experience. It will be my first time at Indianapolis, and I am looking forward to seeing it in person. From what I have seen on video, Indianapolis is a challenging circuit, but I’m looking forward to that challenge, along with competing in the NASCAR Cup Series.”
Days later on 12 July, he tested a late model owned by Reaume’s Camping World Truck Series programme Reaume Brothers Racing at Hickory Motor Speedway, marking his first oval track laps. While the Indianapolis race is its infield road course, he has expressed interest about running ovals in the future as part of a full-time campaign.
“Daniil is a very talented driver with an amazing amount of open wheel experience. In my opinion, NASCAR is a great spot for Daniil to end up at, especially with the Next Gen’s capabilities throughout many styles of racing,” commented Reaume. “I’m looking forward to being a part of Daniil’s transition to NASCAR, and helping him however I possibly can.”
Kvyat’s entry means Team Hezeberg will have fielded three international drivers with extensive road racing experience in their maiden season. The team’s maiden start in the Daytona 500 came with 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in the #27, while NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Loris Hezemans raced at COTA and Road America. Hezemans will run the #27 at Indianapolis.
The Russian competed in F1 from 2014 to 2020 for Red Bull Racing and sister team Scuderia AlphaTauri before serving as Alpine’s reserve in 2021. He was due to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship with G-Drive Racing in 2022 before sanctions due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in their withdrawal. Although the FIA forbids Russian drivers using their country’s flag and some countries’ motorsport authorities have even banned them from racing in events under their jurisdiction, NASCAR does not have such restrictions in place as a privately owned operation whose lone ties to the FIA comes through liaison ACCUS (flags and nationalities are also not of extreme concern for an otherwise American-dominated sport). As such, the door opened up for Kvyat to become the first Russian driver in any American NASCAR-run division.
Including Kimi Räikkönen‘s scheduled start at Watkins Glen in August, Kvyat will join a small group of crossovers between F1 and NASCAR. Those who have run F1 and a Cup race include Villeneuve, Mario Andretti, Jim Clark, Christian Fittipaldi, Dan Gurney, Innes Ireland, Lella Lombardi, Jan Magnussen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Max Papis, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Scott Speed. F1 alumni Olivier Beretta, Narain Karthikeyan, and Eliseo Salazar‘s NASCAR experience only came in the Trucks. Sir Jackie Stewart failed to qualify in his lone NASCAR attempt in 1967. Only Andretti, Gurney, and Montoya have won Cup races in both disciplines while Speed and Piquet boast NASCAR lower series victories.