Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula One world champion whose versatility as a racecar driver extends well beyond his nearly two-decade F1 career, will continue to diversify his racing resume by running three NASCAR Cup Series races in 2023.
With support from Mobil 1, the world’s leading brand of synthetic motor oil, Button will make his Cup Series debut March 26 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. He will then compete in the inaugural Chicago Street Race on July 2 before culminating his three-race Cup Series slate Aug. 13 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Rick Ware Racing (RWR) will field the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang that Button will drive in each Cup Series race. Marketing and promotional support is being facilitated by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Mobil 1’s longtime NASCAR team partner. RWR and SHR collaborated in similar fashion last year for multiple races with a handful of drivers.
“We are thrilled to celebrate Jenson Button as he makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series and support him on his journey to making one of his racing dreams a reality,” said Rob Shearer, Director of Global Lubricants Marketing Services, on behalf of Mobil 1. “We’re driven by the love of driving and committed to helping more people get behind the wheel – wherever they may be. Through our partnership, we hope to continue to inspire and serve drivers everywhere – encouraging them to get more out of their drive and reconnect with the adventure of the open road.”
Button won 15 grands prix, including a dominant six-win campaign in 2009 that netted him the F1 title. Upon retiring from F1 in 2017, the British driver has taken on a variety of challenges. It began with sports cars in the Japanese Super GT Series’ GT500 class, where he won the 2018 championship. He then ran a five-race stint in the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship, a drive that included the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Button has even competed in off-road endurance racing, running the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000 in 2019.
Mobil 1 has been there for nearly all of it, with Button’s NASCAR endeavor another chapter in a partnership that began 20 years ago.
“I won the world championship with Mobil 1, and 14 of my 15 wins in Formula One were with Mobil 1, as well as winning the Super GT championship with them. We’ve had a really close relationship over the years and I can’t think of a better partner,” Button said.
“Mobil 1 has been a big part of making these NASCAR races happen for me, so I’m very thankful to them for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to working alongside the brand to get the best out of every race weekend.”
Through their shared love of driving and deep history in motorsports, Mobil 1 and Button will connect with the racing community in new and exciting ways – with a focus on delivering exclusive content and uniting driving enthusiasts through activations and experiences.
“Our love for racing at Mobil 1 runs deep, and we’re proud to compete and play a role in so many different series,” said Jei Gort, Global Motorsports and Sponsorships Manager, on behalf of Mobil 1. “This partnership with Jenson intersects two of racing’s most prominent series – NASCAR and F1 – and we’re very excited to be a part of his pursuit for success in NASCAR’s premier division. Through our collaboration, we aim to further celebrate the love of driving and elevate the passion for motorsports.”
Button is one of F1’s most tenured drivers with 306 career starts. His final F1 start was the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix when he subbed for Fernando Alonso, who skipped Monaco to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Button’s last fulltime F1 season was 2016.
“The reason I was able to stay in Formula One for so long was because I always felt I was learning. There was always something new in terms of technologies, or I could still improve my driving or engineering skills within Formula One. When I got to my 17th year in F1, I felt like I lost that hunger a little bit because it wasn’t new anymore. There wasn’t something new to learn,” Button said.
“Stepping away from F1 gave me the opportunity to try different series that excited me. I raced Super GT in Japan. I raced at Le Mans. I raced off-road because it was another skill to learn. You put yourself in a slightly vulnerable position because it’s not your complete skill set, and there’s still more to learn to be as good as the best. I love that challenge of driving new things. It’s slightly out of my comfort zone, and I found that out with off-road trucks.
“Obviously, racing a Cup car is very different than what I’m used to. It’s a lot heavier with a lot less power and, basically, no downforce. It’s got a sequential gearbox where you need to blip the throttle, so there’s lots of stuff to learn in a very short space of time.
“But I just get excited about that new challenge, and when I throw myself into something, I am 100 percent in. I’m not just doing it for fun in some one-off. I want to be competitive, and I know that to be competitive, it’s going to take a bit of time. That’s why doing these three races works very well this season.”
Button isn’t totally unfamiliar with a NASCAR Cup Series stock car. He is part of the Garage 56 driver lineup, which is taking a slightly modified Cup Series car to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans June 10-11 at Circuit de la Sarthe.
“The first time I jumped into the Garage 56 car, it was like, ‘What have I done? This is so different,’ and that lasted about four laps. Then it was like, ‘Hang on, it’s still a racecar. It’s got four tires that touch the road. It’s a mechanical racecar, which is even better for learning.’ I’ve really enjoyed the challenge,” said Button, who has now tested the Garage 56 car at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and earlier this week at COTA.
“A Cup car has a lot less downforce and is a lot heavier, but the Garage 56 car has given me an idea of what it will be like along with a direction, which is really useful. I know in my first race I’m not expected to be qualifying right at the front and I’m not expected to be fighting for a victory. I have a lot of respect for the drivers racing in the Cup Series. There’s so much talent there, whether it’s on ovals or road courses.
“Ten years ago, people used to say NASCAR guys can’t drive around a circuit, but I think they’ve proven that they can. Every time an ex-F1 driver gets in a stock car these days, they struggle initially. It takes a while for them to get up to speed, so I don’t expect to be right at the front, straight away. That’s why, for me, doing more than one race is really key so I can get the best out of myself and the best out of the car.”
When it comes to expectations, particularly at COTA where Button made five F1 starts, he has no predictions.
“The most important thing for me is to enjoy it,” Button said. “I want to feel comfortable in the car knowing that I can get as much out of the car in any situation as other people out on track. The result is the result and we’ll see what happens, but I want to get the confidence to brake as late as I’d like, to carry the speed through the high-speed corners, and to be able to race close – wheel-to-wheel with the pack.”
If there is one person who understands the transition Button will face going from open-wheel racecars to stock cars, it is Mobil 1 ambassador Tony Stewart. Before he became a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Stewart was the 1997 IndyCar Series champion. Stewart even has a bit of Formula One experience – he drove Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 championship-winning McLaren MP4-23 on June 14, 2011 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in a seat swap orchestrated by Mobil 1.
“It’s always a challenge to try a new racing discipline, and the best thing you can bring to a new opportunity like this is an open mind,” Stewart said. “Jenson has been doing that his entire career. Those F1 cars evolve every year, and Jenson always found a way to adapt. And when he got out of F1, he jumped into sports cars and won another championship. He’s even done off-road. There’s very little that he hasn’t experienced in a racecar. He’s new to NASCAR, but he’s not new to racing. This is going to be fun for all of us, and we’re very appreciative of Mobil 1 for making it happen.”
Button’s NASCAR Cup Series debut begins on Saturday, March 25 at COTA with practice and qualifying for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. The 68-lap race around the 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course gets underway at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 26 with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.