Button hoping for "calmer" NASCAR experience at Chicago after COTA chaos

Jenson Button says he's anticipating a "calmer" return to NASCAR Cup competition on the new Chicago street course after experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions following his chaotic debut in Austin.

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing, Mobil 1 Ford Mustang

The 2009 Formula 1 world champion is running three Cup races this season in Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Ford with assistance from Stewart-Haas Racing, with his next Cup outing coming on 2 July in NASCAR’s first street race. He will also contest the 13 August round on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Button had an eventful debut in March at Circuit of the Americas, finishing 18th having been on track for a better performance before the race ended in a flurry of wreck-induced cautions. He also suffered from a bout of heat exhaustion in the event.

Earlier this month, Button raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours in a modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 run by Hendrick Motorsports, as an invitational entry under Garage 56 rules.

Reflecting on his COTA experience, Button admitted that he thought “for half the race” that he didn't want to return before changing his mind and relishing the wheel-to-wheel action.

“I definitely enjoyed that, and it’s something you do miss in single-seaters, especially in Formula 1 because the amount of downforce you have, there isn’t so much wheel-to-wheel action,” he said.

“I feel I had more wheel-to-wheel action in the first lap of the race at COTA than I do in a whole grand prix.

“So, loads of emotions – positive and negative – at COTA. Does it make me want to do it more? Yeah.”

Button believes the narrower confines of the 12-turn, 2.2-mile street course will lesson some of the wild manoeuvres that blighted the COTA race.

“I do think that the racing will be a little bit calmer at Chicago, and if not in the first start, people will start packing up a little bit and being a bit more respectful of the circuit,” he said.

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing, Mobil 1 Ford Mustang, Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing, Onx Homes / iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing, Mobil 1 Ford Mustang, Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing, Onx Homes / iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

“That’s the big thing with a street circuit that people learn very quickly.”

With all drivers new to the Chicago street track, Button anticipates that he'll have a more even playing field than at COTA, where he had previously raced for McLaren in F1.

“At COTA, I felt like I’m not used to using that much of a circuit. I normally drive within the white lines, and at COTA if you make a mistake, you just run wide and come back on,” he said.

“You don’t really lose that much time, and again, it’s a very different way of driving.

“Chicago should be better for me. I feel confident that I can have a better result, but it can also all end in Turn 1. So, it doesn’t matter how quick you are, you also need to have a little bit of luck on your side.”

While Button said he would like to try a NASCAR oval “one day,” he’s likely to focus on road and street courses.

“It’s another world,” Button said of oval racing. “These guys have driven ovals since they were five or six years old.

“So, why would I be good there? I don’t know. It’s a possibility, but it’s a lot of work.

“It’s already enough getting used to driving such a big car for me, and the style of racing is a big step as well. Maybe one day.

“But I’m very happy and very lucky to be doing the three races I’m doing this year.”

Button also said he’s ready to make a return to full-time racing next year for the first time since 2019, stating “it will be endurance racing, which will be either IMSA or WEC”.

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