Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks says he knew Kimi Raikkonen would be open to a NASCAR return after racing against him in the Truck series over a decade ago.
Raikkonen entered one race in the Truck series (pictured above in the No.15 Toyota) and one in the Xfinity series during a two-year break from Formula 1 back in 2011, but plans for a Cup Series entry fell through.
Marks was in the field for the first of those races (No.66 above) and finished ninth ahead of Raikkonen in 15th, and says he was confident the Finn would listen to his pitch for PROJECT91 as a result.
“I’ve been a big fan of Kimi’s for a long time, followed his career since he started Formula 1 with Sauber and all along the way,” Marks said. “And one of the cool moments of my career being a Formula 1 fan was being able to race against Kimi in the Truck Series race at Charlotte back in 2011.
“So I knew that he had an interest in NASCAR and that he’d done it before and thought that maybe if I explained to him what this project was all about maybe he’d be interested in being a part of it.”
The No.91 car will be used for multiple international drivers to race in the Cup Series, and Marks believes Raikkonen’s entry is a no-brainer because of the way the 2007 Formula 1 world champion will help NASCAR reach a wider global audience while also being a competitive addition to the field, having only retired from F1 last season.
“I think it’s going to be an overwhelmingly positive and welcoming response. Programs like this are pretty on-brand with what Trackhouse is trying to do in general in this sport.
“It makes a lot of sense, the car is going to really, really look great – it’s going to be very much a Trackhouse-looking effort which I’m excited about – and really the launch of many of these special programs in the future.
“But I think people recognize right now that NASCAR is a changing time. We’ve got this new car, we’ve got new attitudes and philosophies about the sport and where we’re going as a sport, and I think doing something like this by bringing Kimi into really put NASCAR on a global stage but also mix things up on our Sundays is something I think everybody is going to be really, really excited about and anticipating and looking forward to watching in August.”