Upcoming Events on

RATV white
Full Schedule

F1 Champion Jenson Button Excited to Tackle NASCAR Challenge

Should this season's three-race foray go well, Button has left open the possibility of more NASCAR events in 2024.


hero image for F1 Champion Jenson Button Excited to Tackle NASCAR Challenge

There’s no mistaking Jenson Button’s enthusiasm or intent for an upcoming three-race road course stint in stock car racing’s NASCAR Cup Series. The 2009 Formula One World Champion announced Thursday that he will debut in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford in the March 26 race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, then race July 2 in the Chicago Street Race and again Aug. 13 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The 43-year old Brit, who now lives in California, said the details of his NASCAR entry were only formalized in the last few months, however he and Mobil 1 – which is sponsoring his car and effort – have been discussing the possibility as far back as last year.

And truth be told, Button conceded, his interest in NASCAR actually began as a child when he saw the “Days of Thunder” movie starring Tom Cruise.

“I thought it was amazing, but worlds away from European motorsport,” he said.

A world championship in hand, a stock car start at Le Mans on the horizon and Button has left open the possibility of competing in more NASCAR races in 2024 – should this season’s three-race foray go well.

“If I like the championship, if I like the car, if I think it’s fun and enjoyable and I can be competitive, there’s always that possibility, but it’s a lot of learning in a very different way than I’m used to,” acknowledged Button, who will only get his first real seat time in the Rick Ware Racing Ford when he shows up for opening practice at COTA.

“The three circuits that we’ve chosen work out really well because COTA I’ve driven at before. …The second one at Chicago, no one’s driven there before. And Indy, it’s different than the F1 track I drove there but it has some of the same corners.”

Jenson is also one of the three drivers on the Hendrick Motorsports-Chevrolet-NASCAR-Goodyear effort that will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans June 10-11. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson and sports car ace Mike Rockenfeller will co-drive with Jenson at Le Mans. The trio – along with sports car champion Jordan Taylor – have been testing the car extensively already and Taylor also is slated to compete at COTA, filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.

Button said the primary reason he – and fellow former F1 Champion Kimi Raikkonen who is also racing at COTA this month - are able to compete in these races is because the NASCAR schedule includes so many more road courses. This season the NASCAR Cup Series will race six times on a combination of traditional road courses, modified road courses and, for the first time ever, a street course (in downtown Chicago).

And even with his grand prix background, Button was very complimentary of the road course skills he sees in NASCAR drivers today because of the variety of circuits where they compete and the increased number of times they race on that style of circuit. He said he considers the entire starting field “super-talented.”

“The biggest point of contact over the last three or four months has been Jimmie,” Button said, adding, “I said to him, when I had this opportunity, ‘What do you think? Should I do it?’ And he said, ‘You definitely have to do it. You’ll have a blast.’

“I was like, all right, I’m in. If Jimmie thinks it’ll be fun. It’ll be fun.”

Button estimated he’s watched last year’s NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA, “about 20 times” in his preparation for this first start. He earned four Top-10 finishes in five starts at COTA in Formula One with the McLaren team. His best showing is fifth in 2012. His last race there was 2016 and he finished ninth. He retired from full-time F1 competition after the 2016 season finishing Top-10 in the championship in 12 of his 17 full-time seasons and was runner-up to Sebastian Vettel in 2011 in addition to his ’09 title.

Button has attended NASCAR races over the years and seems genuinely excited to give this a try, acknowledging there is still a lot to learn from the technical side from sequential gearboxes to throttle blends.

“When you step outside it [Formula One], for me, it’s exciting to do other things and with NASCAR, it’s a much more relaxed atmosphere,” Button said, “Don’t get me wrong, the racing is very serious and these are some of the best drivers in the world but the atmosphere outside the car, the atmosphere outside the track is a more relaxed and more family-based category.

“I think that’s why we like it, because it’s trying something different. We’ve done something the same for so many years so to go try something different is exciting. [F1 champion] Jacques (Villeneuve) raced last year. Kimi did a race last year and everyone seems to enjoy it.

“I think it’s also because we love another challenge, to try something different. We’re not just F1 drivers, we’re racing drivers.”

Speed51 Icon

I think it’s also because we love another challenge, to try something different. We’re not just F1 drivers, we’re racing drivers

Jenson Button

-Photo credit: Stewart-Haas Racing