If He Jumps, Kimi Räikkönen May Lead Another F1 Charge into NASCARby Kyle Pokrefky March 26, 2016 0 comments
A rather surprising headline that caught my eye this past week was a rumor that Formula 1 star Kimi Räikkönen could be on his way to NASCAR in 2017.
Now, of course, it’s just a rumor, but it wouldn’t be one something that’s completely out of the realm of possibility (unlike that rumor several years ago that Kyle Busch was headed to F1, remember that one?) After all, Räikkönen dabbled in NASCAR in 2011 – making one start apiece in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
If the Finn were to jump to NASCAR, it wouldn’t be an unprecedented move. Generally, sports cars, touring cars or IndyCar are the usual landing grounds for ex-F1 drivers, however, NASCAR has been the destination for several drivers in recent years.
The late-2000s brought about the arrival of several F1 drivers to NASCAR full-time. 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve dabbled with the sport starting in 2007 while Juan Pablo Montoya, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Scott Speed respectively jumped full-time to the series in 2007 and 2009.
Of the four, Montoya had the most success in oval racing as he scored three wins across the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series and made the Chase in 2009. Piquet Jr. had his share of success as well – scoring three wins across the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series.
While they had their successes in NASCAR – that batch of drivers’ time has come and gone. Montoya returned to IndyCar, Piquet Jr. and Villeneuve now run in Formula E and Speed is currently making waves in Red Bull GRC.
There’s been a F1 driverless void left in NASCAR with these drivers’ departure, a void that’d be filled by Räikkönen’s return and potentially several other drivers’ debut.
Several current F1 drivers have stated their interest in joining the sport in the future – even on a part-time basis.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has interacted with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Twitter in the past with the pair discussing a possible XFINITY start on a road course. Of course, the interaction between the two could be viewed as just lighthearted banter, but you can’t count anything out.
Ricciardo has spoken about his interest in NASCAR before. Unlike the norm in NASCAR, Formula 1 drivers select the number they wish to compete with for their career; for Ricciardo, he selected the No. 3 after one of his racing heroes, the legendary Dale Earnhardt.
Two-time defending world champion Lewis Hamilton is another driver could possibly take a stab at NASCAR down the road. Hamilton famously swapped seats with Tony Stewart in 2011 at Watkins Glen International and was spotted supporting Jeff Gordon in last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamilton stated at Homestead that he’d be willing to try out stock car racing one day, although, like Ricciardo, it’d likely be only on a partial effort.
Nobody is expecting any of these drivers to make a jump over to NASCAR in the middle of their already hectic schedules. If there’s any time for them to head state-side for a stock car racing career, it’d be well after their primes at the highest level of open-wheel racing.
Their presence in NASCAR would certainly help expand the sanctioning body’s international appeal in the future. NASCAR’s identity won’t magically change into an international sport with the makeup of the grid being completely diverse in terms of countries represented, but a little international appeal never hurt anybody.
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