Former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is set make his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Watkins in October as he returns to stock car racing. The 42-year-old will be behind the wheels of a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the Team Trackhouse squad, owned by ex-racer Justin Marks and popstar Pitbull for the NASCAR Cup road course race at the ex-F1 venue in the United States on August 21.
The Finnish driver had an illustrious career with 349 Formula 1 Grand Prix starts, 21 wins, 103 podiums and, of course, a championship with Ferrari in 2007. He retired from F1 at the end of the year 2021 season. Raikkonen left the Ferrari at the end of 2009 to compete in rallying and third-tier NASCAR Truck Series. However, he will drive the more powerful Cup Series stock car for a winning team. Team Trackhouse are aiming for more drivers from outside the world of NASCAR as part of an initiative called ‘Project 91’.
Raikkonen has reportedly said he was not looking at making a full-blown return to serious racing but did enjoy his initial taste of NASCAR. Jason Mark was reportedly quoted at NASCAR.com saying, “With the formation of Project91, Trackhouse has opened the door for global champions while scaling into an internationally recognised racing brand. I truly believe the Next-Gen car represents an opportunity for NASCAR to enter the global professional motorsport conversation.”
In a team statement, Justin Marks said that Raikkonen’s entry at Watkins Glen would be the only planned race for PROJECT91 in 2022. However, the team expects to expand the program in 2023 with additional drivers from across international motorsports.
He was reportedly quoted saying that NASCAR has upgraded itself and has a race vehicle with global technological relevance where top-notch drivers from other disciplines can compete at NASCAR’s most competitive level without the steep learning curve that the previous generation cars required.
Raikkonen, a 21-time F1 race winner, will be the third entry for Trackhouse at Watkins Glen alongside team-mates Chastain and Daniel Suarez. The historic road course will play host to the penultimate race of the NASCAR regular season on August 21.