An update on Kimi Raikkonen’s NASCAR plans was released to the media on Saturday. It had been previously reported that the Kimster would be piloting race trucks for his own ICE1 branded team, but it now turns out that he’ll be partnering Kyle Busch on the NASCAR star’s own team.
Kyle Busch Motorsports announced yesterday that Raikkonen would be partnering Busch in select races this year, beginning on May 20. While it might seem like a paradoxical move to many European fans, the NASCAR truck series has become a primary feeder series to NASCAR’s top tier, and it’s only natural that the laconic Finn should get his start there.
Furthermore, he couldn’t do better as far as trucks are concerned. The Busch team leads the series this year, having won two out of the three races run thus far this season.
In the team’s official statement, Kimi said of his impending move, “I am really excited to have the opportunity to start my venture into NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Kyle is one of the best in NASCAR, and being able to draw on his knowledge will be a valuable asset as I make my transition to a new form of racing. He has put together an experienced team that builds fast race trucks. I look forward to being a part of a team that has proven to be a winner on and off the race track.”
And for his part in the mutual, cross-pond love-fest, Busch said, “We are honored that Kimi Raikkonen, a former Formula 1 world drivers’ champion and proven winner, has chosen to start his career in NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Adding one of the most talented drivers in the world is a continuation of building a team of proven winners and champions at KBM. I look forward to assisting in Kimi’s transition to NASCAR as both an owner and team-mate.”
What to make of this? First of all, considering that Kimi is known for spending his leisure hours racing speedboats in a gorilla suit, no one should be surprised at his attraction to race trucks and the greater world of NASCAR.
It’s also true that the link-up has great commercial possibilities. NASCAR is one of the richest motorsport formulas currently running, and Busch must be well aware that adding Raikkonen to his roster, even if only temporarily, is apt to be a magnet for new sponsorship money.
It would also add a new luster of legitimacy to a formula that has been trying to overcome a poor country cousin image on the global stage. While the NASCAR good ol’ boys might regard such F1 transplants as Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve as alien and exotic, they are also flattered that those defectors from the Euro-zone are drawn to NASCAR.
I have no doubt that Raikkonen will succeed in NASCAR, although, like most road racers who join the oval set, he’ll probably find it more challenging than he expected.
There’s really only one question mark in my mind regarding the latest chapter in the Kimster’s career. Raikkonen has a notoriously short attention span. He used to get bored in his F1 cockpit when he was forced to run a quiet race, well ahead of the car behind him, but not quite quick enough to challenge the car ahead. Pacing himself, and preserving his equipment, aren’t really part of the Finn’ spreferred racing vocabulary. So what will happen when he has to run a 500-miler on an oval, constantly running round in a circle, looking for a tow? Will it hold his attention? Or will we hear an announcement in 2012 that Kimi is set to defect from NASCAR to run in MotoGP?