Two former Formula 1 stars will multiple contest rounds of the NASCAR Cup Series later this year.
Making his debut in NASCAR is 2009 World Drivers’ Championship winner Jenson Button, who will not only contest three NASCAR Cup races, but will also contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Garage 56-spec Chevrolet Camaro based on the same model used in the American category.
Button will join Ford team Rick Ware Racing at road courses Circuit of The Americas, NASCAR’s inaugural street race in Chicago and Indianapolis in a project backed by Mobil.
This joins Button’s 24 Hours of Le Mans entry in a Garage 56-spec (experimental class) where he will be joined by NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and multiple winner of the French endurance classic, Mike Rockenfeller.
Button’s inspiration to race NASCAR comes from Hollywood.
“For a very long time, I’ve watched NASCAR, a couple of decades,” Button said.
“Growing up in the UK we had four channels on TV back in the late 80s. And we didn’t get any real sport outside of European sport. So it was actually Days of Thunder that first of all brought me to NASCAR, because it was the first time I got to see any NASCAR.
“I mean, it was a movie. So as an eight-year-old [he was actually 10!], I thought it was insane, I thought it was amazing — worlds away from European motorsport. But that kind of got me in the door of liking NASCAR. And I used to watch it with my old man. It’s so different to what it used to.
“And I think that’s probably what stopped me asking the question whether I’d be able to race in NASCAR, because it’s so different to anything I’ve driven before. And also back then it was more ovals, there weren’t really any street courses.
“So that didn’t excite me so much, because it’s another skill set all together. But now there are more road courses, it’s definitely more enticing.
“I watch the races and I see the new guys coming in that have experience in road course racing. And they don’t find it easy, it’s very difficult. But I think that’s part of the challenge and why I’m excited about it.”
Button won’t be the only former Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion to race in NASCAR Cup this season as the ‘Ice Man’ Kimi Raikkonen will return to the class he has previously raced in once again as part of Trackhouse Racing.
Making a cameo at Circuit of The Americas, Raikkonen raced in NASCAR last year at Watkins Glen where he was competitive until being caught up in an incident.
“I had a fantastic time in NASCAR,” Räikkönen said.
“There was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, but everyone was very helpful; the competition was a big challenge. This time I get to race on a track I am familiar with, so there won’t be as steep of a learning curve. I want to have fun, but also do as well as we can.”
The 2008 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion wants to open the door for other Europeans to take up the challenge in NASCAR.
“I’m sure there are a lot of drivers that would like to have a chance to try NASCAR,” said Räikkönen. “It’s not very easy, so maybe it will open some doors in the future for more chances to try and get more Europeans into the sport.”