Räikkönen, PROJECT91 Ready For NASCAR Return

2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen will make his second NASCAR Cup Series start on Sunday driving the No. 91 Onx/iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. 

Although it will mark his first time in a race car in 2023, the Espoo, Finland native has two factors in his favor this weekend. 

He knows the COTA circuit as well as anyone on the planet. 

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 for Scuderia Ferrari. He’s raced eight times on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile permanent road course.

He’s also joining the right NASCAR team.

His Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain notched his first career victory at COTA last year when he passed two cars in the final corners before taking the checkered flag. His other Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suárez dominated early in the COTA race leading all 15 laps of the first stage before a cut tire and power steering loss ended his victory bid.

“Obviously, it’s helpful that I know the track,” said Räikkönen. “Now the F1 car and a NASCAR Cup car are slightly different (smiling) in how they feel when you go around it. I need to remember there’s a lot less downforce when I go around the first time coming out of the pits.”

Räikkönen became the first driver to join the Trackhouse team’s PROJECT91 program when he raced at Watkins Glen in August of 2022. That day Räikkönen used his skills in the rain to climb into the top-10 before a late race accident ended his race. 

“Last year was a great experience,” said Räikkönen. “Unfortunately, the result wasn’t what we were looking for because we got caught up in a wreck, but that’s part of racing. I am excited to have another go and hopefully we will stay out of any big issues. This will be tricky for sure, but the further we go in the weekend the easier it gets. At least I have an idea of how we can approach the weekend. I think we did a good job last year. Is the car going to give us a better result? I don’t know, I hope so.”

PROJECT91 was created last year by Trackhouse Founder and Owner Justin Marks with the goal 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. 

“We had a great event last year and left Watkins Glen wanting a little bit more, so I am glad we could put this weekend together,” said Marks. “Kimi is a world class talent and its been a pleasure to have him join our team. He’s been everything we could hope for and I think we have showed him how competitive, professional and fun NASCAR racing really is these days.”

Trackhouse Racing fields the No. 99 and the No. 1 Chevrolets for Suárez and Chastain. The Trackhouse drivers combined to win three races in 2022 and have continued that success in 2023 with both drivers in the top-10 in the standings after five races this season. 

Räikkönen retired from Formula One in 2021 after competing with the Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Alfa Romeo teams since he started in 2001. He 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.

Räikkönen will race the No. 91 Onx/iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro at COTA fielded by a Trackhouse crew led by 23-time winning crew chief Darian Grubb who won a Cup Series title with Tony Stewart in 2011. 

Räikkönen will have a little bit of time to get re-acclimated as the Cup Series with practice for a 50-minute on Friday before a qualifying session on Saturday and the race on Sunday.

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