The Iceman is returning to NASCAR and this time at a track he knows quite well. Trackhouse Entertainment Group today announced 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen will return to the NASCAR Cup Series on March 26 at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas to race PROJECT91’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Trackhouse Owner and Founder Justin Marks created PROJECT91 last year intent on expanding the organization’s global reach by fielding a Cup Series entry for renowned international racing drivers.
“When we announced Kimi last year I said he was the global superstar I had in mind when we created PROJECT91. I think you saw the fan reception across the world and Kimi’s performance in the car was proof of the concept. Kimi’s following is massive and it’s great for NASCAR, Trackhouse plus I think Kimi really enjoys our racing.”
Räikkönen will race the No. 91 Onx/iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro at COTA fielded by a Trackhouse crew led by 23-time wining crew chief Darian Grubb who won a Cup Series title with Tony Stewart in 2011.
Onx is transforming how the world builds homes and neighborhoods through X+ Construction, a fully integrated system that merges high-end design and leading technology, delivering more value at every step of the homeowner journey. The company served as the primary sponsor on Ross Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet when he won the COTA race last year as well as Daniel Suárez’s victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June.
iLOQ, the Finnish pioneer of smart and mobile locking systems, is present in the American market with its battery-free technology that ensures secure and intelligent access management for people and businesses.
The race will mark Räikkönen’s second Cup Series race after debuting with PROJECT91 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 21 last year. Here are my three takeaways from this announcement.
Familiarity This Time Around
When Raikkonen made his NASCAR debut last summer, it was all new to him. New track (Watkins Glen), new team (Trackhouse) new car (NASCAR Cup Series). There was a lot working against him. Now, he will have more familiarity this time around.
Same team (Trackhouse), same car (No. 91 Chevrolet), familiar track (COTA).
Unlike the Watkins Glen track, Räikkönen is familiar with COTA, racing on the road course eight times during his Formula One career. One of Räikkönen’s 21 Formula One victories, and most recent, came at COTA on Oct. 21, 2018, when he led 39 laps on his way to victory driving a Ferrari.
“I had a fantastic time in NASCAR,” said Räikkönen. “There was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, but everyone was very helpful, the competition was a big challenge. This time I get to race on a track I am familiar with so there won’t be as steep of a learning curve. I want to have fun, but also do as well as we can.”
Chance To Win?
I truly think Raikkonen has a chance to win this month’s race. He’s won here before. The team (Trackhouse) won here last year. Plus, in his NASCAR Cup Series debut, Raikkonen made it all the way up to the top 10 before being an innocent bystander in a midrace crash.
Road Racing Aces Back
A decade or so ago, it was common to see road course ringers leave their marks on the Cup Series. Ron Fellows, Boris Said, etc would show up at the two annual stops in Sonoma and Watkins Glen. With the importance placed on these races as the years went by, the Cup Series regulars upped their games at these places. They had to. As a result, it phased out those ringers.
Now, with this new car, the ringers are back.
Kimi Raikkonen, Jordan Taylor and Conor Daly will all be in COTA competing. Raikkonen with Project 91, Taylor in Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet and Daly with The Money Team.