Former Formula One driver and 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen is set for his NASCAR debut, climbing behind the wheel of the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota Tundra for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Raikkonen will run for Vision Aviation Racing, formerly Billy Ballew Motorsports. Kyle Busch is listed as the team owner.
Raikkonen will become the second F1 champion to drive in the Camping World Truck Series — Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 F1 champion, competed in the series, making his debut in 2007. He will be one of three former F1 drivers in the CWTS race at Charlotte: Nelson Piquet Jr, Max Papis, and Raikkonen.
Team owner Busch said:
We’ve sent him a few videos the past couple of years of truck racing at Charlotte. He’ll get a good view of what to expect with the in-car stuff, listening to throttle control, how much you’re on the gas and how to race people.
Raikkonen will be the seventh former F1 driver to have raced in the series. The other six are Narain Karthikeyan, Papis, Piquet Jr, Eliseo Salazar, Scott Speed, and Villeneuve. Of them, Piquet Jr is the only one to have posted a top 10 in his debut, finishing sixth at Daytona International Speedway in 2010. Scott Speed is the only former F1 driver to win a series race, winning at Dover International Speedway in 2008.
Raikkonen began racing in F1 in 2001, driving for Sauber-Petronas (now known as Sauber). In 2002, he began racing for what is now known as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. With McLaren, he finished the 2003 and 2005 F1 seasons as runner up for the championship. Some say that unreliablecars from McLaren were to blame for him missing both championships.
He switched to the team now known as Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, and won the 2007 F1 championship. Two years later, he was replaced by Fernando Alonso at Ferrari. Negotiations with McLaren and Mercedes GP didn’t pan out. He was offered a ride with Toyota F1, but Raikkonen declined. It was reported that Raikkonen wanted to drive a race-winning car (which Toyota F1 didn’t have) and that the salary was not high enough.
Raikkonen left F1 after the 2009 season and began racing full time in the World Rally Championship, driving for the Citroën Junior Team with sponsorship from Red Bull.
Raikkonen currently drives for his own team, ICE 1 Racing. It was originally rumored that his ICE 1 racing team would field his truck for his NASCAR debut. Shortly thereafter, however, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced that they signed Raikkonen.