Jordan Taylor is one of four drivers entered this weekend without any extensive NASCAR background and joins a pair of Formula One world champions in Button and Raikkonen and IndyCar regular Daly, who led the most laps in last year’s Indianapolis 500.
Button, who will co-drive with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, sports car champion Mike Rockenfeller and Taylor at the upcoming June 10-11 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car classic, appeared to be enjoying his first laps ever in NASCAR’s premier series.
He smiled about having spotters guide him around the course for the first time in his career saying he appreciated the help. He joked about figuring out how to start the car and navigating the sequential gearbox and said he expected Sunday’s race to be much different in terms of hard driving, compared to his decorated Formula One open-wheel career.
“The team has been great and I’m looking forward to a solid weekend,” said Button, who only had 13 laps of practice in his No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford.
“I pretty much expected everything I felt, it’s just a lot more extreme.
“It’s new and a challenge and I followed a few guys out there and I’m doing most things right, but it’s a matter of fine tuning,” he added. “Never jumped in a car for 13 laps and gone qualifying that’s very different than what I’m used to. It takes a bit of time. I’m not a guy that jumps in a car and goes immediately quick. .. .tomorrow will be fun. The race is still Sunday. But I still think qualifying could be relative competitive.”
For their part, the NASCAR drivers were thrilled to welcome the F1 drivers into their garage. Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano was eager to compete against Button and Raikkonen, after following their Formula One careers. Raikkonen, who is driving the No. 91 Project91 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing, raced at Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course last year
“I think it’s awesome,” Logano said. “I mean, these are guys that — besides Jimmie [Johnson] who I’ve gotten to race against Jimmie for a long time — but you know, F1 guys, we don’t ever get the opportunity to stack up against those guys, right? They grew up racing completely different cars in different countries, and you make it to the pinnacle of what your discipline is.
“Like stock-car racing is what we all decided we wanted to do over here, and they wanted to be F1 superstars, right? And because we went completely different paths, we don’t ever get to race each other, and like, you always wonder, where do you stack up on a world scale? Where am I? I know where I’m at in Cup, but where am I in the world scale? And how do you compete, and this is a really cool way just to see a lot of them jump in here and try it.”
Both drivers were within tenths of one another in qualifying. Raikkonen (132.539-seconds) qualified in 22nd while Button (132.559-seconds) is one row behind in 24th.