Kimi Raikkonen’s NASCAR Cup debut ends with a crash

Jon Wilde
NASCAR - Kimi Raikkonen tests for Trackhouse/Project 91 ahead of his debut. August 2022.

Kimi Raikkonen ended up crashing out of his NASCAR Cup debut at the halfway mark after a promising surge through the field.

The Finn, who had dabbled in a couple of lesser NASCAR events 11 years ago during his sabbatical from Formula 1, had qualified 27th for the Go Bowling at The Glen event at Watkins Glen.

Driving a Chevrolet for the Project91 programme instigated by Trackhouse Racing, which is designed to integrate international drivers into NASCAR, Raikkonen found himself having to tackle a wet race for his series bow.

The field had to start on rain tyres as a shower passed through the area in New York state and Raikkonen made strong early progress.

Four laps into the race he was up into the top 20 and six laps later had made his way into the top 15 as the track began to dry up.

The 42-year-old’s excellent headway continued and he got all the way up to P8 before having to make a pit-stop and dropping back down to 28th.

However, his race ended when he became involved in an incident on lap 45 in which he was pushed off track and into the barrier, being helped out of the car by safety officials but able to walk away.

“I don’t know what happened in front of the car,” said the former Ferrari, McLaren and Alfa Romeo driver after leaving the medical centre.

“I had a good line going there. They all pushed kind of right inside. I kept (my) tight line. When they told me someone spun in front of the cars everyone kind of came left and hit me on the side. There was nothing I could have done.

“The first hit on my car spun the wheel in my hands. Something went wrong in the wrist, but I’ll fix it when I get back home. It’s a part of the game.”

Speaking about his one-off NASCAR experience overall, Raikkonen, quoted by RACER, said: “I have nothing against it. It was all good and they were very nice and helpful. We just ended up at the wrong place.

“I felt we had very good speed, especially after the pit-stops, but maybe I was a bit too harsh on the tyres on one of the sets.”

The 2007 F1 World Champion was also praised by 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, whose fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen clinched the regular season title with one round to spare before the play-offs begin.

“I thought he did great,” said Elliott. “He was right in the middle of the mess there and looked like he was right at home, so I thought that was really cool.”

Former Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat also took part and retired after 58 laps of a race won by Kyle Larson, the 2021 champion and team-mate of Elliott.