After years of dreaming, months of planning and a few days to get the driver ready, Trackhouse Racing’s PROJECT91 makes its debut Sunday with 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen driving the No. 91 Recogni/iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
Räikkönen becomes the first driver to join the team’s PROJECT91 program announced in May by Trackhouse Founder and Owner Justin Marks.
PROJECT91’s goal is to expand the organization’s international reach by fielding a NASCAR Cup Series entry for renowned international racing drivers. Marks thought of the idea years ago when he was a part-time driver in NASCAR and full-time competitor in sports car racing.
He announced the project and Räikkönen’s involvement in May.
Räikkönen arrived in America on Aug. 9 and worked at the team’s shop in North Carolina. He spent time on the Chevrolet computer simulator on Aug. 10, then joined in a driver orientation in an older version of a Cup Series car at Virginia International Raceway for two hours on Aug. 11.
“As a company we have worked hard to get Kimi ready,” said Marks.
”He has adapted very quickly so far. I know he will be quick. Our job is to help Kimi learn the rules specific to NASCAR to make sure that doesn’t bite us. But everyone knows how much talent he has and its shown on the simulator and at the test.”
Trackhouse Racing – a division of Trackhouse Entertainment Group – now fields the No. 99 and the No. 1 Chevrolets for Daniel Suárez and Ross Chastain. The Trackhouse drivers have combined to win three races in 2022 and will join in the 2022 NASCAR playoffs that begin Sept. 3 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Räikkönen retired from Formula One in 2021 after competing with the Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Alfa Romeo teams since he started in 2001. The native of Espoo, Finland won 21 races and stood on 103 podiums in his F1 career.
His Formula One highlight came in 2007 when he won the F1 World Driving title for Scuderia Ferrari.
This will not be his first venture in the NASCAR world. He competed in the Xfinity and Truck Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2011.
“Without the experience there (in 2011) doing the truck and (now Xfinity) Series, I probably wouldn’t have been that interested in doing this,” said Räikkönen.
“But, knowing what to expect in NASCAR and this being a road course, I’m looking forward to this. There should be a lot of good close racing. Maybe on the road course we will have a good chance to try to do something.”
Marks said Räikkönen’s entry at Watkins Glen is the only PROJECT91 race planned for 2022 but expects more races in 2023 with additional drivers.
Marks visited Räikkönen’s Zurich home in Switzerland in February to discuss PROJECT91.