Raikkonen banks ‘beneficial’ NASCAR preparation laps

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen banked his first laps in the new generation NASCAR ahead of his Cup Series debut next weekend.

The 2007 Formula 1 world champion will drive for Trackhouse Racing in the road course race at Watkins Glen on August 21 (local time).

His appearance is part of Trackhouse’s Project 91 initiative, which aims to bring international racing drivers to the Cup Series and give them an opportunity to race in NASCAR.

Raikkonen had his first Next Gen test on Thursday at Virginia International Raceway and was joined by Mike Rockenfeller.

German driver, Rockenfeller, will also make his series debut at Watkins Glen with Spire Motorsports.

Both drivers turned laps in a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 test car at VIR, though will have to wait for opening practice to get their first chance in the race-spec NASCAR they will compete in separately.

“I don’t have anything to compare [the car with] but I think it was nice to get some laps, even if it’s not exactly the same car that we’re going to race,” said Raikkonen.

“It was very beneficial just to put laps and have some fun, to know what the car is somewhat doing, do longer runs to find out so I’m sure it’ll be easier to go into practice come the race [weekend].”

Raikkonen has previous NASCAR experience with cameos in the Xfinity and Truck Series in 2011, but his debut in the Cup Series will be at the wheel of the category’s new generation car.

“Obviously I have a little experience with the Cup car from 2011,” he added.

“This car is a new generation car, it’s a lot nicer, I guess more or less what I expected.

“I tried the simulator so I had some idea, it’s okay, obviously the same things happen to it like a normal car, so when the tires get hot you’re sliding more.

“So far it’s been good.”

The Finnish driver says the preparation laps will undoubtedly help him next weekend, with limited track time.

Raikkonen hasn’t driven a race car since he retired from F1 at the Abu Dhabi season-finale in December last year.

“Maybe we did 50 laps or something,” he said.

“Without those and the simulator, for sure I’d be going straight into 20 minutes practice, and then qualifying, and that would be much more harder.

“At least we prepared as well as we could, so thanks to NASCAR letting us to have those laps, we did the best that we could and most that we can, so we’ll see what we get.

“Obviously it’s a new track for me, so I need to learn it, so we’ll see what we have.”

The NASCAR Cup Series’ Watkins Glen road course race begins at 15:00 local time on Sunday, August 21 (05:00 AEST on Monday, August 22).

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