Raikkonen Signs With Kyle Busch’s Truck Team
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
A former world driving champion will take the first steps toward becoming an American champion this summer in Charlotte.
Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Saturday that it has signed former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen to drive a limited schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during the 2011 season.
Raikkonen is scheduled to make his NASCAR debut as a teammate to owner Kyle Busch in the N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20.
Raikkonen comes to NASCAR with a resume that includes the 2007 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship. Over his nine year career in Formula 1, the Finnish driver registered 18 wins and 62 podium finishes. The 31-year old is currently competing for a World Rally Car Championship for his own team, ICE 1 Racing.
“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,” said Busch. “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 teammate.”
Raikkon’s F1 career began in 2001 when he was issued his super license and signed by Peter Sauber to driver for the Sauber Petronas team.
The following season, Raikkonen joined the McLaren-Mercedes team where he finished the 2003 and 2005 seasons second in points to Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso respectively in those years.
In 2007, he moved to Ferrari.
Raikkonen left Ferrari – and Formula One – in 2010 to begin competing in the World Rally Championship, a series that his hugely popular in his native Scandanavia.
“I am really excited to have the opportunity to start my venture into NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports,” said Raikkonen. “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.”
“We are extremely excited to have Kimi Raikkonen begin his transition to NASCAR behind the wheel of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Toyota Tundra’s,” said KBM General Manager Rick Ren. “As NASCAR looks to expand their fan base and generate further interest in certain demographics, having a former Formula 1 Champion with worldwide appeal is a huge deal not just for KBM but for the sport as a whole.”
Details of sponsorship and a schedule of races that Raikkonen will compete in will be released at a later date.
Juan Pablo Montoya, a former race winner in Formula One but never a champion in that open-wheel series, was asked about Raikkonen’s decision.
“I think it would be cool if he comes here,” Montoya, who drives Sprint Cup for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, said. “He’s a cool guy and I think he would fit right in. My first choice wouldn’t be Charlotte to start my first race.”No Comment