Raikkonen tests Trackhouse NASCAR Next Gen car at VIR ahead of Cup debut

Kimi Raikkonen got his first taste of a NASCAR Next Gen car at VIRginia International Raceway today, ahead of his Cup Series debut at Watkins Glen next weekend.

Raikkonen tests Trackhouse NASCAR Next Gen car at VIR ahead of Cup debut

The 2007 Formula 1 world champion will drive for Trackhouse Racing in the road course race at Watkins Glen on 21 August, driving a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 alongside team-mates Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain.

It will mark his first outing in a motorsport event since he called time on his 349-race F1 career last December with his final appearance for Alfa Romeo at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Finn has previous history in NASCAR, taking part in one second-tier Xfinity Series race, and one Truck Series event in 2011 with Kyle Busch Motorsports during his sabbatical from F1.

He has also tested a Cup car at VIR before, driving a Dodge for Robby Gordon Motorsports in 2011, but the test ended early when he went off and tore up the nose on wet grass.

Earlier this week, Raikkonen spent time on Team Chevrolet’s simulator, and went through data with Suarez, who claimed Trackhouse's second road course victory of the year at Sonoma in June after Chastain prevailed at the Circuit of the Americas in March.

Insight: How Trackhouse and Suarez played the mavericks of NASCAR

Raikkonen’s entry with Trackhouse Racing comes as part of the team’s Project91 initiative, which is looking to expand NASCAR’s reach by dedicating its #91 car entry to international racing drivers. Trackhouse’s trio of drivers at Watkins Glen will be from three different countries.

Opinion: The international stars Trackhouse should target for its NASCAR project

The NASCAR rulebook for testing of a Next Gen car was amended on 15 June to allow for a ‘Select Driver Orientation Test’ for drivers who are entered for a Cup race within the following 90 days. Its series of provisos include limited data logging and set-up changes on the day.

 

Three sets of Goodyear tyres can be used and no other driver is allowed to shake down the car. The test is limited to 10 hours from the moment the car hits the track.

Raikkonen admitted he was offered other opportunities to make his racing return earlier this year, but he wanted to give enough time to prepare for the Watkins Glen Cup race.

“There were obviously options to do more this year, but I think it all came a bit too quickly, to try to do it as well as we can on all the sides,” said Raikkonen.

“I think it was better to wait until this race, so we can prepare for everything and at least have done the work 100% right and what the outcome is, nobody knows. We’ll at least give ourselves the best chance that we can.

“What comes after that? I don’t know, nobody knows. We’ll try to do a good race there and enjoy it, and see what the future brings. I have no other plans.

“That’s what I have right now, and we’ll go from there.”

Raikkonen won't be the only Cup debutant in the field at Watkins Glen. He will be joined by fellow ex-F1 racer Daniil Kvyat, who has signed to race a Team Hezeberg Ford, and 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Mike Rockenfeller in a Team Spire Chevrolet.

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