Finnish Formula 1 legend Kimi Raikkonen is getting back behind the wheel of a stock car for the first time in over a decade this week. He’ll be racing at the NASCAR Cup Series event in Watkins Glen with Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 program, but before he can actively compete, he needs to get some testing done. And that’s what we’re getting a look at today.
In case you missed it, Raikkonen will be the first international driver to take on Project 91, which is the name Trackhouse Racing has given to its third car that runs in a limited number of events. The whole goal is to get more eyes on the NASCAR Cup Series by occasionally running big-name drivers from other series around the world. With two NASCAR starts under his belt — one in the Truck Series and one in Xfinity — Raikkonen was a perfect fit.
This week, Raikkonen is running test laps behind the wheel of Trackhouse’s Chevy Camaro ZL1 at Virginia International Raceway. With the introduction of the Next-Gen car and the debut of Project 91, NASCAR amended its rulebook to allow for a “Select Driver Orientation Test” for drivers that will enter a Cup Series race within 90 days of the test.
NASCAR, like most race series, has a pretty strict limit on the amount of in-season testing a team can do, so Raikkonen’s testing is limited in a lot of ways. The test can only run for 10 hours after the car first hits the track. Raikkonen is only allowed three sets of tires, and Trackhouse is limited in the amount of data it can collect and setup changes it can make. Basically, NASCAR wants Raikkonen to compete in the Cup Series, but it doesn’t want his presence to give Trackhouse an edge.
Raikkonen’s last Cup Series test came in 2011, when he ran into the grass and destroyed the nose of a Robby Gordon Motorsport machine.
Project 91 has been releasing clips of Raikkonen on track all day via its Twitter account:
Honestly, Kimi Raikkonen competing in NASCAR is cool, but my current favorite part of this whole thing is the introduction of a new set of young fans to NASCAR. I hate to admit it, but I’m a serial lurker on Tumblr, and new Formula 1 fans who learned about Raikkonen through Drive to Survive are using his presence in NASCAR as a reason to check out the Cup Series. That’s a win in my book.