Q & A with Mattias Ekstrom

Two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom is making his oval debut this weekend at Richmond International Raceway in what will be just his second outing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series

Q & A with Mattias Ekstrom

While others before him have taken their first steps in stock car racing at lower levels, including Juan Pablo Montoya, the 32-year-old Swede has taken the bull by the horns and will race Saturday at the 0.75-mile oval in the final race before the Chase for the Cup kicks off.

AUTOSPORT spoke to the two-time winner of the Race of Champions ahead of his second NASCAR race.

Q. Why are you going straight into the Sprint Cup and not trying at a lower level before, like others have done in the past?

Mattias Ekstrom: I think it doesn't really matter wherever you start, if you start in Cup or Nationwide. Sure, if you start lower you have less competition but there's good guys at every level in any NASCAR series. I mean, look at Kyle Busch, he's driving in all of them and besides, Red Bull only has a team in Cup. I had to do this with Red Bull because I've been an athlete for them for many years and that's about how it was.

Q. So you think it's easier to make the transition from DTM to NASCAR than from an open-wheel car?

ME: For me I think it's easier to adapt to NASCAR because I've been used to touring cars. Open-wheel cars have never been my cup of tea and I've never been good at it, so for sure I'm better off trying to do this than maybe going to IndyCars, that's for sure.

Q. What moved you to do this for a second time?

ME: What I like the most is the racing. You have many competitive cars and many competitive teams and DTM is also competitive but you have only 20 cars and then you have to drive with a lot of respect for your team-mates. Here there's 43 cars and you've got to be good because if not, you're going to be way down. The competition is what really attracts me and I really enjoy that.

Q. Are you seriously considering a future in NASCAR? Are more races in the cards this year?

ME: I came here and did the race at Sonoma and said afterwards that I'd like to do an oval. What happens in the future nobody knows, but one thing is for sure, I will try to collect all the experience I can this weekend and I will do the best job I can and then we will see what happens. At the moment I have a contract with Audi which I'm happy for and I really enjoy the DTM and there are some races to go this year, but I decided I wanted to try this.

Q. You've spent some time with Montoya in your NASCAR visits. Is he trying to sell you into making the move full time?

ME: I don't call him Juan, but Sean. I liked his style when he was doing F1 and I've spent some time with him. He's a nice guy and very competitive. He's been giving me all the info, what I should think of, all the pros and cons. I appreciate all the help I got from him because without that I would be struggling a lot more. I also got some help from Jimmie Johnson and you need to have some friends in this world when you come as a rookie in order to survive. I think what is really important is to do this with a lot of passion.

Q. With four races remaining in the DTM and ranking fifth in points, what's your outlook on the rest of the season?

ME: The championship is out of my hands now and I can't win it by my own performance, it would have to be the others doing something bad. I'm going there to enjoy every race, to try to win more races and what happens with the championship I can't really control anyway. We will see.

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Ekstrom open to NASCAR future
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