NASCAR Cup Series

Kimi Raikkonen: “We’ll see” on NASCAR return after Cup debut

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Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Kimi Räikkönen‘s first NASCAR Cup Series race began with plenty of fanfare, but ended in disappointment when he was involved in a crash that ended his day after forty-four laps. Despite the retirement, he remained upbeat about the experience and what is currently a one-off could become more starts in the future.

The 2007 Formula One World Champion qualified twenty-seventh for Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International, and was able to gain eleven spots by the end of the first stage. Pit strategy and an overall strong performance enabled him to enter the top ten, where he battled with the likes of pole winner and Cup regular season champion Chase Elliott before pitting prior to Stage #2’s conclusion to finish it twenty-fifth.

On lap 44, Trackhouse Racing team-mate Ross Chastain collided with Austin Dillon as they exited the Bus Stop chicane, sending Dillon into a spin. Räikkönen was running on Chastain’s left when he and Loris Hezemans were sent off course, with Räikkönen hitting the wall. With front damage terminal, he retired and was classified thirty-seventh.

“I had a good line there but everybody came from the left and unfortunately, I had no time to react,” Räikkönen told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman. “The impact was small, but the first thing was somebody hit the tyre or the wheel directly and the wheel spun and something went wrong with the race, but that’s how it goes.”

Despite the disappointing finish, he described the race as “good fun. I felt more confidence all the time and had some good battles and it’s a shame. I think the car felt like it had a lot of speed in there, but that’s how it goes some day.”

When asked about returning for more races, he simply told Kligerman, “We’ll see. I don’t know.”

Trackhouse fielded the #91 for Räikkönen in the début race for PROJECT91, a programme intended to bring international racing stars to NASCAR. While Watkins Glen is the entry’s lone Cup race for 2022, team owner Justin Marks hopes it will run six to eight races in 2023.

“Ultimately, PROJECT91 is a programme that operates at all of the road courses during the season and then potentially some of the major events, like the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, or something like that,” Marks explained in a Saturday media availibility. “I think at some point, you get so many races that you have to look at just actually fielding a third full-time car. But I think for PROJECT91, it’s a six to eight-race programme potentially next year and beyond. It’s a brand extension of Trackhouse. I think we can get really unique on the content side, on the merchandise side and just create great stories. That’s sort of where I’d like to see it go.”

Fellow F1 alumnus Daniil Kvyat, who along with Räikkönen were among six non-Americans in the race, briefly exited with mechanical failure before returning. He subsequently overtook the retired Räikkönen for thirty-sixth.

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