Raikkonen’s NASCAR debut starts on a low after early retirement

Raikkonen's NASCAR debut starts on a low after early retirement

Former F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen finally made his NASCAR Cup debut, but his afternoon was cut short as he crashed out of Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen.

After having his NASCAR Cup Series debut cut short at Watkins Glen, Kimi Raikkonen has not ruled out making a comeback.

The Finn was racing for Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 entry, which team owner Justin Marks created to allow drivers from other motorsport series to compete in the Cup Series. Raikkonen found himself in the NASCAR Cup Series after he left Formula 1 at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

Before the race’s roughly two-hour delay due to heavy rain at the New York state track, Raikkonen had qualified his Chevrolet Camaro in 27th place on the starting grid.

The experienced driver, who has competed in 349 Grand Prix races, was in the running for a top-10 finish when he was unintentionally involved in an accident at the bus-stop chicane.

Around lap 16 of the 90 tour race, the pack began to swap from wet to slick tyres, and Raikkonen had advanced to finish in the top 20.  But because the #91 wasn’t one of the first vehicles to make the change, he dropped out of the top 30 as the field overtook him.

Raikkonen would finally approach the top 10 with this tactic, finishing as high as eighth following a restart. After Austin Dillon wrecked at the Turn 5/6/7/8 complex on Lap 44, Raikkonen’s race was over. Ross Chastain had nerfed him, and Loris Hezemans had pushed Raikkonen who was outside, minding his own business, wide and into him.

Raikkonen had no choice but to crash into the tire barrier and visit the in-field care facility, which is required in NASCAR if you can’t return to the pits in the racing car. As NASCAR drivers are not given credit for DNFs, Raikkonen’s official finishing position was 37th.

Raikkonen was not eager to rule out returning to the Cup Series despite the fact that this was a one-time occurrence for him.

The next road course event is the Charlotte ‘Roval’ in the Playoffs in October, and when asked after the race if he would return, the 21-time Grand Prix winner replied, “We’ll see, I don’t know.”

“I felt more confidence all the time and had some good battles, [so] it’s a shame,” he explained to broadcaster NBC Sports. “The car felt like it had a lot of speed in there, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”

During his 2010–2011 F1 break, Raikkonen participated in the XFinity and Truck Series of NASCAR. In 2011, he competed in Charlotte for Kyle Busch Motorsports, finishing 15th in the Trucks category and 27th in the Nationwide Series.

The incumbent series champion Kyle Larson, who overtook teammate Chase Elliott on a late restart, took the victory at Watkins Glen. Elliott did win the regular season championship before the final race of that part of the season this weekend at Daytona, though he was not really happy about it.

Chastain and Daniel Suarez, Raikkonen’s two teammates, placed 21st and sixth, respectively, and both had previously qualified for the playoffs.

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