Kimi Räikkönen is returning to NASCAR. Again.
As part of Trackhouse Racing's Project 91, Kimi Räikkönen will return to the NASCAR Cup Series, this time competing at Circuit of the Americas, the team announced on Wednesday.
“The Iceman” is a Formula One world champion and the last Ferrari driver to win the driver’s title in 2007. Räikkönen was the first driver to be part of Trackhouse’s Project 91, and crashed his car during last year’s race at Watkins Glen. He finished the race 37th.
Team owner Justin Marks made it known that the plan was to expand Project 91 this season, running an expected six to eight races.
Räikkönen said after his first race: “I had a fantastic time in NASCAR”.
Räikkönen said in the team’s announcement: “There was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, but everyone was very helpful, the competition was a big challenge. This time I get to race on a track I am familiar with so there won’t be as steep of a learning curve. I want to have fun, but also do as well as we can.”
Räikkönen is not a stranger to NASCAR, though last season was his Cup Series debut. In 2011, he raced in an Xfinity Series race and a Truck Series race for Kyle Busch Motorsports. His debut may have ended with hitting the tire barrier after being shoved off the track, but he never said no to making a return.Unlike last year, there is no plan for test sessions before COTA. Last season, Räikkönen visited Trackhouse’s shop in North Carolina and did testing at Virginia International Raceway.
Trackhouse described Project 91 as “a program designed to expand its international reach by fielding a NASCAR Cup Series entry for renowned international racing drivers.” Räikkönen’s debut drew plenty of global attention, and Trackhouse went to great lengths to discuss the project with him. Marks flew to Switzerland to explain the idea.
There are plenty of NASCAR fans within the F1 community, such as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Former world champion Jenson Button is part of the group for NASCAR’s Le Mans entry, Garage 56.
Räikkönen is no stranger to COTA either, competing on the road course eight times as an F1 driver. He led 39 laps during the 2018 U.S. Grand Prix and won the race.
Räikkönen said in the announcement: “I’m sure there are a lot of drivers that would like to have a chance to try NASCAR. It’s not very easy, so maybe it will open some doors in the future for more chances to try and get more Europeans into the sport.”