Raikkonen pauses retirement to race NASCAR

At the end of last year’s Formula One season, Kimi Raikkonen retired to Switzerland, where he has been spending the last eight months with his young family.

The 2007 F1 champion said he didn’t miss racing. Yet here he is, not even a full year after retirement, returning to the track.

A NASCAR race will take place at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York on Sunday, and it isn’t a typo. TrackHouse Racing and its ambitious, purpose-driven Project91 program persuaded the “The Iceman” for his unintentionally droll demeanor to get him back behind the wheel.

By co-owning NASCAR’s hot, new winning team, Justin Marks, 41, he created Project91 to raise NASCAR’s worldwide profile with top drivers from other formulas. TrackHouse should compete for the win at Watkins Glen, where he was prepared to personally fund the race.

Atop Marks’ list of prospects was Raikkonen, who previously competed in both the Xfinity and Truck Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the same weekend in 2011, when Raikkonen took a one-year break from Formula One. There was some bemusement over Raikkonen’s mere presence in NASCAR’s hotbed, but the most memorable part of his brief NASCAR career was being sponsored by Perky Jerky.

While Raikkonen initially expressed interest in this NASCAR offer, Marks sealed the deal in February by visiting Raikkonen’s home in Switzerland to make his pitch in person.

How much does it cost to hire Kimi Raikkonen for a race?

A person who would give it immediate legitimacy and be interested in doing it was needed. “When I started thinking about Project91, Kimi immediately came to my mind,” Marks said. “My desire to see cool things happen in racing came from my desire as a race fan.” A Formula One driver coming to NASCAR and competing at the Cup level is a cool thing and if we were going to launch this thing, we needed somebody relevant globally to kick things off.”

The cost of hiring Raikkonen for one race has not been revealed; Marks once joked that the trip to Switzerland was “expensive” and last week joked that Raikkonen was earning $1 million.

Recogni and iLOQ, two technology companies, sponsored some of Project91 with the No. 91 Chevrolet.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the 42-year-old Raikkonen admitted he casually follows NASCAR and has been fascinated by the series for more than a decade. In 2011, he hoped to also run a Cup race, but that never happened, so he returned to Formula 1, where he won his final three career championships in the following decade.

Aside from NASCAR’s new Next Gen spec car, which debuted this year and equalized the competition among the elite top teams, Raikkonen was also intrigued by the garage’s upstart TrackHouse Racing team. In its second season, TrackHouse has won three Cups and both Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez have qualified for playoffs,

I think it’s good when there is an equal chance to win in a series and what I heard when I talked to people about the new car was that it is pretty even with everyone.” Raikkonen told AP. “It’s still a learning phase for all teams.”

While TrackHouse was not yet considered a championship-caliber team, Raikkonen said he was convinced by Marks during their meeting. Marks entered Raikkonen’s home via a mutual friend.

After his two-race NASCAR stint in 10 years, Raikkonen still kept an eye on F1’s schedule, even as he hopped around the globe. As a result, when he met with Marks, he knew a new car was coming, and that he was “very honest” about what he planned for the program.

In the last eight months, Kimi has received several offers to race

“I think he came as an honest and straightforward guy and no one has promised anything big,” Raikkonen said. Our only choice is to try our best and hope we get a good result. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen in NASCAR, you just never know what’s going to happen in any category or race.” And so I trusted what he said, and they’ve been doing well. In NASCAR, it’s easy.”

In the past eight months, Raikkonen has received several invitations to race, but Marks’ is the only one he has accepted.

Besides being able to do something brand new, he also gets to do it with his wife and two young children, who have filled his retirement with other things. As a result of finally having a traditional schedule, he has been able to spend more time with family and on vacations around Europe this summer.

As a result of three days spent at TrackHouse’s shop, Chevrolet simulator, and NASCAR-sanctioned test at Virginia International Raceway, he brought “The Ice Cubes” to the United States. For Sunday’s race, the family will travel upstate this weekend after meeting in New York City.

While his seven-year-old son races both go-karts and motocross, his five-year-old daughter is less interested in the sport.

Raikkonen said, “I haven’t asked them, they’ll figure it out.”.

In a NASCAR record seven countries will be represented Sunday as part of Project91, in which international drivers will run designated Cup races. In his opinion, Project91 offers international drivers an opportunity to learn more about the top motorsports series in the US.


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