Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – WATKINS GLEN, NY – The world will watch on Sunday as Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen is just hours away from making his Cup debut at Watkins Glen International. The start is his first in NASCAR since 2011.
Raikkonen and his car owner Justin Marks of Trackhouse’s Project 91, met with the media for the first time since the announcement on Saturday.
“Justin contacted me last year at some point and left it alone for a while and then had a discussion at my home in Switzerland,” Raikkonen stated. “It worked out well and has made sense to do a little bit of racing. I think how the timing was right. The kids are home from school, and we can come as a family. All those small things did good this year. We should have a chance to do okay.”
The return comes at a track that hosted the F1 US Grand Prix from 1961-1980, the longest any track has hosted the event.
“I came yesterday. I know a little bit of history here. Saw some videos from it. But from that, I haven’t really seen much of it. I’m a bit too young from that. It’s a nice area, feels like I don’t know where, but I enjoy it,” commented Raikkonen.
“There are a couple factors that went into it. We need time building to get this team ready and to match up with Kimi’s schedule just so it was convenient for him and his family to make this trip. I didn’t want to debut Project 91 in the Playoffs. That was not interesting to me. Obviously, there’s a lot of history at Watkins Glen. The fan base is huge. It’s a track where if he starts to learn the race car and the race, you can make passes,” Justin Marks explained.
Kimi’s first attempt in NASCAR came in 2011 when Kyle Busch gave him a chance to race a Truck, but they never stayed in touch after the attempt.
“I guess we never really did a phone number swap, and I never really talked to him when he was here. It was always through the agency and stuff like that. I’ve been paying attention to him and all the stuff he’s done with the F1 stuff over the last few years. It would be nice to see him, say hey, what’s up, and welcome back,” Busch said.
Kimi has no plans to race after, but he is out here to have fun.
“I want to have fun, but I want to try as well as we can.”