NASCAR Cup Series
Kyle Larson Defeats Chase Elliott for Watkins Glen Victory
Aug 22, 2022
Before his debut weekend began, Kimi Räikkönen accepted that contact was part of NASCAR and it ultimately denied him a chance to take the checkered flag in the Go Bowling at The Glen.
The 2007 Formula 1 World Champion was just outside the top-20 at the start of the final stage when he ran into an incident triggered by Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain and Austin Dillon. Räikkönen had nowhere to go when the contact forced Loris Hezemans into his No. 91 Chevrolet Camaro -- sending the future Hall of Famer into the tire barrier.
"I don’t know what happened in front of the car," Räikkönen said after getting released from the infield care center. "I had a good line going there. They all pushed kind of right inside. I kept (a) tight line. When they told me that someone spun in front of the cars everybody kind of came left and hit me on the side. There was nothing I could have done.
"The first hit on my car spun the wheel in my hands. Something went wrong in the wrist, but I will fix it when I get back home. It’s a part of the game."
Räikkönen is the first driver to compete in the Trackhouse Project91 entry -- a marketing, content and competition program designed to attract marquee international champions from other disciplines to the NASCAR Cup Series in a competitive one-off environment.
He started the race in 27th and spent portions of the first half, some of it under wet conditions, near and inside the tip-10 before finishing the opening stage in 19th. He finished the second stage in 28th, setting the stage for the incident that eliminated him from contention.
As various strategies played out in the middle stages of the race, Räikkönen found himself mixing it up with 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott as well, who came away impressed with his race craft.
"I thought he was doing great," Elliott said. "He was right in the middle of a mess there and looked like he was right home. So, I thought that was really cool."
Räikkönen said he enjoyed everything about his initial foray into the Cup Series -- 11 years after making his Xfinity Series and Truck Series debut in a one-off at Charlotte Motor Speedway -- but wasn’t sure if he would return in the future.
"I have nothing against it," Raikkonen said. "It was all good and they were very nice and helpful. We just ended up at the wrong place. I felt we had very good speed, especially after the pit stops, but maybe I was a bit too harsh on tires on one of the sets."