Button "pretty happy" with top-10 NASCAR qualifying effort

Ahead of NASCAR's first-ever street course race, former Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button has shown to have a bit of speed as he continues his foray into the stock car world.

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing, Mobil 1 Ford Mustang

Button is making his second NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend on the streets of Chicago.

Once again driving the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford - with support from Stewart-Haas Racing - he quickly asserted himself as one of the faster drivers on track.

It's a bit more of a level playing field this weekend with everyone experiencing this circuit for the first time. His previous start came in a frantic race at COTA, where an admittedly exhausted Button finished a respectable 18th.

Ahead of the weekend, Button revealed his hope for a "calmer" race at Chicago, and starting closer to the front may help with that.

Button was third-quickest in practice, behind Denny Hamlin and Shane van Gisbergen, who is making his Cup debut on Sunday.

Button was fourth among the five drivers who advanced from Group A into the final round of qualifying. Although he didn't end up challenging for pole, his fast lap was enough for eighth on the grid. That's 16 places higher than where he started at COTA (24th). 

Button was 1.136s off the pole-winning time set by Hamlin, but was the second-highest qualifying Ford driver in the field.

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jenson Button

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jenson Button

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“It’s been a good day," he said after Saturday's action. "I mean it’s funny, isn’t it: You always want more than what you have. It’s the way of life, it seems. But no, it was a good run in terms of, I don’t think we did anything wrong. I think the balance was a little bit out. We’ve been fighting a tight car so for me, I’d call it understeer. I really struggled to get a lap on that one, and most people are doing the time on lap one. So, that hurts me quite a bit.

"It hurt me in Q1, and then in Q2, I had traffic. I can’t do the lap on the first lap, but it was starting my second lap that I had traffic. It was slightly annoying, so I had to do a cool-down lap and then go again. Never works as well. P8 isn’t too bad. I’m pretty happy with that. I just wish we got a clean run in Q2. I would have had a couple more spots. It wouldn’t have been top-three, but it would have been a couple more spots.”

Between COTA and Chicago, Button also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a modified version of the Next Gen Cup car as part of the Garage 56 entry.

He's learned a lot in the past few months and says he "definitely" feels more comfortable ahead of this event. Button also had high praise for three-time Australian Supercars champion Van Gisbergen, with the NASCAR debutant just missing out on pole position.

"It’s new to all of us. I think Shane [Van Gisbergen] did a really good job. First time in a Cup car, but he does have the expertise of a street circuit in a heavy car. I think he was always going to be quick. We were a bit off the pace of the top three there, but we would have been a bit closer. It’s nice to be able to sit in the Top-10.

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"Who knows tomorrow? It looks like we’re going to have rain in the morning. The car feels more like a race car than a qualifying car in terms of where the balance is, which is great. That’s something to be positive about going into the race tomorrow. Thanks to the whole team, and thanks to Mobil 1 for giving me this opportunity once again.”

Button plans to make a total of three NASCAR starts this year, with his third and final Cup start coming at the Indianapolis Road Course next month.


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