Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past twenty four hours or so, you’ll be well aware that Kimi Raikkonen has suggested that he will be trying his hand at NASCAR racing. And no, bizarre as it may seem, it’s not an early April Fool’s joke.
News broke from Turun Sanomat in Finland that Raikkonen would make his debut this summer, racing with the ICE1 Racing team in NASCAR’s Truck series before eventually moving on to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series.
“I am excited about getting to know the world of NASCAR,” Raikkonen is quoted as saying. “I have been following it for a long time.” Which sort of contradicts where his opinion lie just 18 months ago when, on the eve of his final grand prix, he told The Associated Press: “I could race there (in NASCAR) if I wanted – but I’m not one of the biggest fans of NASCAR.”
Funny how opinions change when money is involved and the boredom threshold has been exceeded, isn’t it?
It is, in my opinion, that Raikkonen is finding the dead time between each rally event rather tedious. So, rather than sit around twiddling his thumbs, he wants to preoccupy himself by dabbling with something that might take his fancy and, depending on his success, could bring stability to his racing career as it enters its twilight years.
With a rally deal in his pocket, Raikkonen still has eight WRC events remaining this year, seven of which are from June onwards, just as his NASCAR exploits are due to begin. You have to wonder the logic of it all timing wise, going from series to series without being competitive in any of them won’t do his aspirations any good.
Time and time again he’s refused various F1 offers because he wanted to do rallying instead; now all of a sudden he wants to do NASCAR. It will keep him race fit no doubt, but the skills gained from one discipline aren’t necessarily transferable with the other. Lugging a 3000lb vehicle around an oval for 200 laps and powersliding a Citroen DS3 through damp Welsh forests are worlds apart.
The thing that confuses me the most is that he could easily go back to F1 and be competitive. But Raikkonen doesn’t race in F1 for the same reason Juan Pablo Montoya doesn’t: they don’t enjoy it.
That I understand. The sterile nature of F1 bores them senseless. But Raikkonen, the media shy recluse, wants to go to NASCAR where he’ll have to be on constant commercial duties? That’s enough to give the poor man nightmares, surely?
Still, good luck to him. He is the last of the ‘playboy drivers’, and with a vast amount sitting in the bank, who can blame him for wanting to do something that takes his (passing) fancy? He’ll probably enjoy the environment stateside, and if he doesn’t, his ICE1 Racing Team will have grabbed some headlines at least.
NASCAR will welcome Raikkonen with open arms if and when negotiations are finalised. Same can’t be said for Foster Gillett, who will be a partner in the team. Gillett’s history with various sporting franchises hasn’t been a resounding success. His involvement with Richard Petty Motorsport in NASCAR was a failure, with Petty barely escaping with his reputation intact following his association with Gillett.
But something tells me the nonchalant Raikkonen probably couldn’t care less.