By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Trackhouse Racing has been making waves since their debut in NASCAR and on Thursday, the Justin Marks led Cup Series team made another big splash by announcing the team would be fielding an entry for former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen later this season.
The 21-time F1 grand prix winner and 2007 world champion will headline the Trackhouse Racing “PROJECT91” car, which was unveiled earlier in the week as the team’s third entry in the Cup Series to provide a seat for international racing stars.
Raikkonen is no stranger to racing in NASCAR, having made two previous starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series back in 2011 at Charlotte. However, when Watkins Glen rolls around in August, it will be his first venture into the Cup Series.
“Kimi Raikkonen is the driver I first had in mind when we created PROJECT91,” said Marks. “Kimi is a world-renowned driver with a tremendous amount of talent and fan following. We have had long discussions, and like us, he is already hard at work preparing for Watkins Glen.”
Since stepping away from Formula 1 at the conclusion of the 2021 season following a career spanning nearly two decades, in which he competed in 350 races for teams like Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Alfa Romeo, the Finnish-born driver wasn’t expecting to climb behind the wheel again, but noted Marks made a compelling pitch for him to drive the PROJECT91 entry.
“I wasn’t looking to race again, but Justin came to my home in Switzerland and convinced me how serious he was about putting together a top-notch program,” said Raikkonen. “This will be fun, but it’s something I will take very seriously. I know how competitive the NASCAR Cup Series is and it will be a big challenge.”
Marks added that the Next Gen car is a big reason why PROJECT91 was able to get off the ground and will help lessen the learning curve for Raikkonen when the green flag drops at Watkins Glen.
“The car that we had the last couple of years required just a specific style of driving that we saw these road course ringers kind of go away over the last couple of years, but that’s what I love about this new car,” Marks said. “Now we have a car that’s more like a V8 Supercar or a GT car. We’ve got independent rear suspension, a transaxle, a diffuser, and underside aero.
“So, we’ve got a car that doesn’t require really specific stock car racing knowledge to go fast, which is why I think a guy like Kimi can come in and go fast right away and have a real shot at doing something in that race. That’s what this new car is all about. That’s what the promise of the new car is all about.
“Really, it’s why we launched PROJECT91 because I think these guys can come in, you know, the ones that have always had an interest in doing something in NASCAR can come in and be fast right away.”
While Raikkonen’s Cup Series venture will be the first entry for the PROJECT91 car in 2022, he won’t be the last, as the team is expected to field the car in additional races in 2023.