Räikkönen crashes on NASCAR Cup debut after impressive run


Kimi Räikkönen ran in the top 10 on his NASCAR Cup debut at Watkins Glen before his race came to a premature end


Räikkönen impressed on his Cup series debut


Kimi Räikkönen’s NASCAR Cup series debut came to a crunching end last night after a collision halted a strong initial run at Watkins Glen.

The Finn was making an appearance as part of the Trackhouse Racing team’s Project 91, a new initiative to give well-known motor sport stars one-off appearances in stock car racing’s top tier.

Trackhouse was set up by rap star Pitbull and former racer Justin Marks and is an evolution of the former Chip Ganassi team. The squad has emerged as one of the stronger outfits in this year’s Cup series, and Räikkönen utilised his equipment well after being given one short familiarisation test before the race.


The Finn qualified 27th before steadily making his way through the pack


The Finn, who last raced in the second and third-string NASCAR championships during his F1 sabbatical in 2011, qualified 27th out of 39 cars, before running in the top 20 during the first stage on a drying track.

As tyre strategy evolved in the second stage, Räikkönen was running as high as eighth, looking comfortable battling with NASCAR’s heavy hitters as he duelled with former champion and current championship leader Chase Elliot.

However after a second scheduled pit stop later on at the end of ‘stage two’, the Finn found himself back in the midfield for the start of the next stint, and was the victim of a domino effect ironically triggered by his Trackhouse team-mate Ross Chastain.

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The latter sent Austin Dillon spinning at the bus stop chicane, causing those behind to slam on the brakes. Euro NASCAR champion Loris Hezeman – one of six non-Americans taking part, a series record – jinked left to avoid the slowing cars, shoving an innocent Räikkönen straight into the barriers.

Though the Finn’s promising day had come to a premature end, the 2007 F1 champion was positive about the race.

“I thought I had a good line there but everybody seemed to come [to] the left. Unfortunately, I had no time to react,” explained Räikkönen after the collision.

“The first impact, somebody hit the tyre or the wheel directly and the [steering] wheel spun. There is something wrong with the wrist, but that’s how it goes.

“It was good fun, you know? I felt more confidence all the time and had some good battles and yeah, it’s a shame. The car felt like it had a lot of speed in there but that’s how it goes sometimes.”

The Finn replied with a wry laugh when asked if he might get back behind a NASCAR wheel in the future: “We’ll see. I don’t know.”


Räikkönen ran as high as eighth before later being taken out

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Räikkönen’s earlier sparring partner Elliot looked set to take the win before a late safety car restart saw reigning champion Kyle Larson punt AJ Allmendinger into the former.

Larson claimed victory, as a disgruntled Elliot came home fourth.

NASCAR’s particularly international weekend – by its standards – also included former F1 racer Daniil Kvyat, who finished 36th and 25 laps down after with mechanical issues, and former Le Mans-winner and DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller, who came home 30th.