Kimi Raikkonen Might Have Inspired NASCAR’s Next International One-Offs

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Yesterday’s Go Bowling at the Glen featured several international drivers making their NASCAR Cup Series debut, including the 2007 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Kimi Räikkönen. The 42-year-old Finnish driver qualified 27th and reached as high as the top ten during the rain-impacted race on the Watkins Glen road course, but, his day was cut short when he went head-on into a tire barrier after he was forced off track by another incident. While Räikkönen only made it just past the race’s halfway point, he might have encouraged other drivers to give NASCAR a chance.

Kimi Räikkönen got the opportunity to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut as a part of Trackhouse Racing’s Project91 program. Trackhouse usually fields two Chevrolet Camaros full-time in the division, the No. 1 with Ross Chastain behind the wheel and the No. 99 with Daniel Suárez. Both Chastain and Suárez have won races this season. Project91 sees Trackhouse field an additional Camaro, the No. 91, for a one-off appearance by an international motorsports star. The program intends to raise the profile of both Trackhouse Racing and NASCAR, by allowing high-profile drivers the opportunity to cut their teeth in stock car racing’s highest division with a competitive team.

In the wake of Räikkönen’s outing, a pair of famous international drivers looking to be the next Project91 candidate. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericcson sent out a tweet somewhat jokingly asking Trackhouse to direct message him about the Project91 seat. Before his four seasons in the NTT IndyCar Series, the Swede spent five seasons in Formula 1. Jenson Button, the 2009 F1 World Champion, jokingly quote tweeted Ericcson stating that they should play rock-paper-scissors for the Project91 seat. Since his departure from F1 after the 2016 season, Button won the 2018 Super GT Championship in Japan and he currently competes in the Travis Pastrana-founded Nitro Rallycross Championship.

Trackhouse owner and founder Justin Marks told Racer that he is aiming to field a Project91 entry at every Cup Series road course round as well as the NASCAR’s marque oval events like the Daytona 500. It will be interesting to see who will eventually find their way into the No. 91 Trackhouse Camaro over the coming seasons.

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