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Trackhouse Project 91 NASCAR team won’t run Raikkonen next time

Trackhouse Racing’s co-owner Justin Marks has confirmed his Project 91 initiative won’t run Kimi Raikkonen at its next NASCAR Cup appearance but has a ‘done deal’ with a new driver and sponsor.

Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing, Onx Homes / iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro

Project 91’s stated intention is to field “world-class drivers from other disciplines to compete at NASCAR’s highest level”.

After fielding Raikkonen at Watkins Glen last year, Marks said he’d increase the programme to “six to eight” Cup races in 2023, while retaining its focus on road courses.

Raikkonen also finished 29th place at the NASCAR Cup race at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, having run as high as fourth entering the closing stages.

The next road course on the Cup schedule is June’s Sonoma race, which Trackhouse won last year with regular driver Daniel Suarez, and while Marks confirmed a new face would be joining his team, he refused to be too specific.

“Project 91 is going to race more this year,” Marks told SiriusXM. “We’re going to have a different driver in the car the next time we’re out. We’ve closed a great sponsor for that, so the deal’s done.

“Right now, we’re just getting kinda mobilised around how we’re going to make a really cool, exciting announcement around it because I think it’s going to be really neat, it’s going to be a cool programme.

“It’s going to be somebody that has got very, very different experience from NASCAR but in some ways is actually perfectly suited for a Cup race.

“This is somebody who has not raced in America very much at all, but I think is going to be able to go to this particular race and make some real noise. I’m excited about that.”

Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Photo by: Edge Photographics

Will it be Supercars ace Shane van Gisbergen?

Three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen revealed last September he’d spoken to Marks about joining Project 91 in future.

Having shifted to the Chevrolet brand this year with the new Gen3 era in Australia’s premier series, he would be a logical choice to drive its Camaro in Cup as well.

“I'd love to do a [NASCAR] road course and have a go, for sure,” said van Gisbergen. “It's just getting the right opportunity. We did speak, but it's all dependent on our calendar and what races I can do.”

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The Kiwi flagged the Chicago street race as an ideal venue – its 1-2 July slot is free for him, as is Sonoma’s 11 June race date.

“They’ve got the Chicago street circuit for the first time,” he added. “A street circuit would suit me, I reckon.

“That would be good as well because it's a new track for everyone, so certainly that would help me get up to speed if everyone else is learning as well. That would be a good one, but let's see.”

Van Gisbergen has raced in America before, driving Porsche, Mercedes and Lexus GTD cars in IMSA SportsCar Championship competition at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen.

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