By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The Iceman is back.
After making his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Watkins Glen last summer with Trackhouse Racing, former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Räikkönen returns to Trackhouse’s Project 91 entry for the upcoming race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin on March 26.
“I had a fantastic time in NASCAR,” Räikkönen said. “There was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, but everyone was very helpful, the competition was a big challenge. This time I get to race on a track I am familiar with so there won’t be as steep of a learning curve. I want to have fun, but also do as well as we can.”
In his debut race last year, Räikkönen was holding his own around the upstate New York road course before getting swept up in a crash midway through the race, resulting in a 37th place finish.
“It was a great experience, great trip,” Räikkönen said of his race at Watkins Glen. “Unfortunately, the end result wasn’t what we were looking for. Unfortunately we ended up in a crash and that kind of ended our day. I think we would have had a good result if that would not have happened, but that’s part of racing. I’m happy and excited to have another go and hopefully we stay out of any big issues.
When it comes to COTA, the 2007 Formula 1 world champion knows his way around the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course, having won at the track back in 2018 – the last of his 21 wins in his standout F1 career.
With knowledge of the track and the Next Gen car, Räikkönen is hoping the second time around in NASCAR works out better than the first.
“It’s helpful that I know the track,” he said. “Obviously F1 cars and NASCAR, it’s different with how the track feels. I need to remember that there’s slightly less downforce to go the first time going out of the pits. That side helps for sure, but it’s a different car, so the track will be completely different in the way it feels.
“I have some experience from the last year in that race with the car…it will be tricky for sure. The further we go in the weekend, the easier it gets, but at least I have some idea of what’s going go, what we’re going to get, and how we maybe can approach the weekend to be slightly better.
“I think we did a good job last time, but at least knowing the short practice, qualifying, all the other things in the race, the restarts, and all those things, it will be beneficial. Is it going to give us a better result? I hope so, but we’ll see what we get.”
In addition to having Räikkönen in the car for the weekend in Austin, Trackhouse also returns to the track as the defending race winner, with Ross Chastain looking to back-up his first career win last season.
Track activity for the Cup Series starts on March 25 with practice and qualifying, leading into Sunday’s running of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at 3:30 pm ET on FOX.