Kimi Raikkonen has finally gotten his first taste of NASCAR racing. Or, more properly speaking, NASCAR testing. Earlier this week, he ran more than 400 laps at the half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park oval in Georgia.
Kimi’s new NASCAR partner, Kyle Busch, was present at the test to observe the Finn’s progress in his new role as good ol’ boy racer.
as reported in Autosport, Kyle Busch Motorsports General Manager Rick Ren said of Kimi’s maiden run in a NASCAR race truck, “On one hand, I am obviously not surprised at all with the type of experience Kimi has and his championship pedigree. But on the other hand, I am very pleasantly surprised.”
There has been some media confusion about the exact nature of Raikkonen’s new business relationship with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Conflicting reports have held that KBM had a contract with the Kimster as an individual, and also that there was a partnership deal in place with Kimi’s proprietary racing outfit, ICE1.
It seems that the truth of the matter lies somewhere in between. As reported in Sports Illustrated, Kyle Busch said, “My contract is with Kimi himself. He’s responsible [for the funding]. I do know that there’s three sponsors involved. There is money backing him.”
This would indicate that Kimi’s not exaclty a driver for hire. But he’s not paying out of pocket, either. Several sponsors have been mentioned in recent press releases: Perky Jerky, Tag Heuer, Oakley and Alpine Stars. The Kimster does nothing for free, and, aside from having fun playing with tin tops, he’ll probably also make a pretty markka on the arrangement. (Note to geeks: the markka is the official Finnish currency.)
Currently, Raikkonen is scheduled to race trucks at one venue, Charlotte. It’s a 1.5 mile oval, and is considered advanced for a NASCAR newbie, even for someone of Kimi’s stature. Fellow F1 refugee Juan Pablo Montoya ran his maiden truck race at the 0.75 mile oval in Memphis, which is considered to be less demanding on a beginner. But apparently Kimi and his handlers were intent on kick-starting the Finn’s NASCAR career at Charlotte.
Said Busch of the plan, “They picked Charlotte for whatever reason. They were adamant about Charlotte and running that race. I don’t know if he feels that he wants a challenge right off the bat, but I think it will be good for him.”
As for possible additional venues for Kimi, Busch said, “I would say we’re talking three to five. Right now, it’s only Charlotte. We’ll see how he feels about Charlotte. He did express interest in running up to three or maybe up to five. We’ll just see how it plays out. Right now, it’s only one.”
Note to NASCAR: the Kimster, a.k.a. the Iceman, does pretty much whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and generally on short notice. Get used to it.