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F1 champs Raikkonen and Button to race NASCAR at COTA

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Kimi Räikkönen pilots his car through Turn 1 in qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Race at the Circuit of the Americas. (AP)

AUSTIN, TX — Kimi Raikkonen sprays champagne from the winner’s podium at the Circuit of Americas.

That was in 2018, when he took the final win of his long F1 career at the United States Grand Prix in Ferrari red.

The Finn is back in Texas, but with a very different car in a very different series with a very different racing style.

Raikkonen and fellow former F1 champion Jenson Button will drive at NASCAR’s first road course race in 2023 on Sunday. Between them are 36 career F1 wins.

“I’m happy to be back,” Raikkonen said on Saturday. “Here in Texas is a nice place.”

Raikkonen will drive the Project 91 entry for Truckhouse Racing. It’s designed to give NASCAR’s seat to drivers in other disciplines. Button drives his No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Rickware Racing.

Kimi Raikkonen (AP)

Many of NASCAR’s regular drivers welcome Europeans.

Ryan Blaney said he wanted to meet Button because he was a big fan when he was a kid. Cup his series leader, Joey Logano, was impressed to find himself in a car unlike any other.

“We don’t get a chance against them. They’ve grown up racing completely different cars in different countries,” said Logano. “If you put me in a Formula 1 car, you’ll get lost. That’s great for our sport.”

And there’s another “road course ringer” in the field. Sports car driver Jordan his Taylor makes his NASCAR debut in Hendrick his motorsports. He qualified for the fourth time driving injured Chase Elliott, who is still recovering from his tibia fracture in a snowboarding accident.

COTA’s Jenson Button. (Getty Images)

“Jordan is really strong,” said two-time winner William Byron, who took pole position on Sunday. “Impressive. And so are the other guys.”

Some drivers wonder if Taylor and F1 officials really know what they’re after. The raging race of the Cup Series.

Raikkonen has some experience with it. He made his Cup debut in his series last season at Watkins Glen and was competitive until he ran off the track on the restart. His race ended with a crash into a tire barrier.

“In Formula 1, you hit someone and the wheel pops open. Usually you lose parts, you lose the wheel. You can’t take that risk. In NASCAR, you race a little closer. We can,” Raikkonen said. “I think it will be exciting at the end of the race where people can be very aggressive.”

Button said he was ready: “I can compete with 30 other crazy guys out there.

Button quickly noticed some big differences in practice on Friday. First, he forgot how to start the car.

“I had to flip some other switches,” Button said with a laugh.

Then he had to avoid traffic jams.

“When you’re doing slow laps, people don’t move out of the way, but you’re running fast laps,” he said.

Button’s NASCAR debut is part of a three-race deal on the road course this season. And he hasn’t finished switching things up. He has already been named one of three drivers NASCAR will be competing in at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Taylor will become a backup driver and driver coach at Le Mans.

Button still spends part of the year following F1 as part of Sky Sports Broadcast’s race coverage.

He said his wife Brittney Ward encouraged him to find an entry in NASCAR. She’s American, and she knew more about her NASCAR than F1 when we had dinner together in Los Angeles many years ago.

When Button told her he was an F1 driver, Button said he asked, “It’s like NASCAR?”

“I’m like, ‘It’s like NASCAR. It’s so similar, you can’t tell it apart,'” Button said.

feel at home

Mexican driver Daniel Suárez said he was happy to be racing near his home country. I met

“It feels like home,” Suarez said. “I have a family here. I also have a fast car. Everything looks great.”

Last season, Suárez’ victory at the Road Course in Sonoma, California, made him the first Mexican-born winner at NASCAR’s top level.

penalty appeal

NASCAR announced April 5 is the date Hendrick Motorsport can appeal Largest total fine in series history. The team was hit with fines totaling $400,000, the suspension of four crew chiefs, and the loss of 100 regular season points and 10 playoff points for modifying an air deflecting piece at Phoenix Raceway. HMS driver Alex Bowman was his leader in Cup points for his series before being penalized by 100 points. he is 20 now.

fruit smash

Ross Chastain celebrated his first Cup Series victory at COTA last season by breaking a watermelon from the top of his car.

On Friday, Chastain threw the fruit from a great height: the observatory of the racetrack’s 251-foot tower. At that height, the fruit clattered like a rifle shot into the pavement and practically disintegrated on impact.

He hit the target all four times.

“The important thing is to imagine someone’s face there,” said Chastain, who finished third in the rankings and qualified for Sunday’s race in 12th.

odds and ends

Tyler Reddick is a betting favorite to win, According to the FanDuel sportsbook. He will start second… Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, owner and driver of Legacy Motor Club, will make Austin his second start on a 10-race part-time schedule. Johnson called the Circuit of the Americas a ‘bucket list’ track for him and said he’s wanted to race here since it opened… IndyCar driver Conor Daly returns to open-wheel racing Driving the Money Team’s No. 50 Chevrolet before.On April 2nd, he raced against Ed Carpenter Racing at Texas Motor Speedway.


AP Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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