F1 Driver Salo On Track To Join Nationwide Ranks UPDATE Pending sponsorship support, F1 driver Mika Salo is set to compete in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2010 after a successful first test, Autosport.com reports.
Salo tested a Sprint Cup-designed Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing last week, along with fellow former F1 Toyota driver Jarno Trulli.
|Mika Salo was driving the Risi Ferrari in ALMS recently|
"Two things were new to me," the 42-year-old Finn told the Web site. "Driving a big NASCAR and driving on an oval. It felt comfortable in the car from the beginning and I could feel the changes we made to the car.
"It’s all about the money. If my sponsors are happy, it will happen. The plan is to learn the racing and learn the tracks in Nationwide and then move up to the Sprint Cup in 2011." Yahoo! Sports 11/18/09 Salo could be looking at a NASCAR ride with Michael Waltrip Racing and they tested the driver this week.
Mika Salo spent nine years in the Formula One ranks and more recently has become one of the world's top Le Mans-style sports car racers.
He spent Tuesday in a Michael Waltrip Racing Sprint Cup Series car doing laps over the half-mile oval at New Smyrna Speedway.
"It took me three years of asking to get this day," said Salo, who will watch another former F1 driver, Jarno Trulli, attack NSS today in the same No. 55 MWR Toyota.
Having these F1 drivers take laps in stock cars at a short track was so intriguing, even Sprint Cup Series regular Mark Martin showed up to watch, explaining to crew chief Bootie Barker, "I live close by here."
Martin, Barker, Salo and Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne had a roundtable discussion during the lunch break about how to attack the New Smyrna high banks. Salo, 42, hung on every word.
Steve Hallam is the vice president of competition at Waltrip Racing and was helping oversee this test. He spent 27 years on the Formula One circuit before joining MWR at the start of the 2009 season.
"That's more coincidence than anything else," Hallam said of the F1 ties to this private test. "Obviously, I can relate to these guys, but the initiative is not mine. . . . We are happy to facilitate this and give these guys a sample of driving one of these cars and seeing what it feels like."
Salo worked his way up to speed as he learned the characteristics of the bulky stock car he was piloting for the first time in his racing career.
"It's a slow circuit, so it's a good place to do the first run," Salo said. "I would be scared to death if we were doing this at a high-speed circuit somewhere. I'm just trying to get the feel of the car."
"When we started (Tuesday), I was just running laps because I had never driven an oval before, and it's also a new car for me," he added. "It's fun. The car is drivable."
Barker, a veteran crew chief, was guiding Salo through the process via a two-way radio and chatter on pit road.
"You learn something everywhere you go," Barker said. "Track time is invaluable."
"The goal is to get these guys exposed to what a stock car feels like," he added. "This has a lot to do with Toyota. They are our manufacturer and we're happy to work in conjunction with them. We're going to let these drivers get a flavor for this type of racing and see where it goes."
Hallam said NASCAR and Formula One share one characteristic.
"They are both fiercely competitive forms of racing," he said. "There's an opportunity to develop these cars and for a talent pool to grow over here, well, there are no boundaries."
Hallam said Juan Pablo Montoya's NASCAR success has spurred some interest with drivers from other racing disciplines.
"You can never tell how these guys are going to go here until you let them experience it, or if they even like it," Hallam said. "I think the smile on Mika's face says it all."
Hallam said racing is racing, whether it is the majestic F1 race at Monaco or a 500-lap NASCAR short-track event.
"The fundamentals are the same," Hallam said. "The environments might be slightly different." newsjournalonline.com