Raikkonen’s NASCAR debut gets off to slow start


Raikkonen and Busch joke around

05/20/11 Former Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen doesn’t know how long his NASCAR experiment will last, but he hopes it goes better than his first couple of hours of practice.

Raikkonen was 30th in both Camping World Truck Series practices Friday morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway as he was more than six mph off the pace of the leaders.

He scraped the wall with both his right front fender and his right rear quarter panel of the Kyle Busch Motorsports truck as he fought a loose truck most of the practice for the N.C. Education Lottery on Friday night.

“I’m still learning," Raikkonen said Friday following practice. “I haven’t driven once [here]; it was my first time today here. It wasn’t a very good day but we have to start from somewhere and improve.

“Hopefully in qualifying and the race we can do a bit better. … We’ll try to survive and do the best we can."

Raikkonen currently is running full time in the World Rally Championship in his second year away from Formula One. He tentatively had planned to run three to five races with KBM but indicated he might try to run the Nationwide Series race next week.

“I am here this weekend and hopefully next week, I’m in here and after that, there’s no really big plans yet," said Raikkonen, not giving any indication of the team he would compete for next week. “Hopefully I can get to run some Cup races. That would be nice. … I will try to do the best now and see what happens."

The 32-year-old Finnish driver has had three days of testing to prepare for the Charlotte race but had not been on a track bigger than 1 mile in length.

“I wanted to see how a stock car feels – if I really suck here, there’s probably no reason to come back," Raikkonen said. “Hopefully it goes better than today. I don’t know yet. We go day by day and see how it goes. What comes in the future, it comes. I have no plans for next year and it’s too early to think about."

Raikkonen said he wasn’t sure what to expect in the race or what his future holds.

“I don’t really know – I don’t have any plans for next year for anything that I do," Raikkonen said. “I’ll see how it is. I didn’t really have any expectations when I came here. It’s a bit like when I went to Rally. I didn’t have any expectations. I wanted to see how it is.

“It is the same story here. It is a different sort of racing than we have in Europe. It’s very popular here. It may look easy, but it’s not too easy to find that last bit to be fast. We’ll see how it goes."

He said the transition from Formula One, where he won the championship in 2007, to Rally cars was a little tougher, but he hasn’t competed in traffic.

“The handling of the car was not what I wanted, … it will be interesting to see how I do in the race," Raikkonen said. “It will be the first time you have some cars beside you and you can go overtake some guys. … Hopefully it goes smoothly."

Kyle Busch, his team owner, said he had issues in practice along with Raikkonen.

“Kimi took to it OK," Busch said. “We’re a little disappointed that we’re not higher up on the speed charts with him. We feel like that’s more maybe our area than his area.

“I know he knows how to drive a car. We’ve seen it. Hopefully we can get him a little bit better where he can run all the laps tonight and have a good experience."

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