Formula One driver Jenson Button shook up the NASCAR world last week when he announced that he would be running in three Cup Series races in 2023. Button, who won the F1 championship in 2009, will drive the No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing, with his first race being the March 26 event at Circuit of the Americas. The 43-year-old British driver will also run in the July 2 Chicago street race and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course race on August 13.
Button's arrival on the NASCAR scene marks an interesting trend of F1 drivers trying their hand at stock car racing. Kimi Räikkönen, another former F1 champion who made his Cup Series debut with Trackhouse Racing last year at the Go Bowling at the Glen, will once again be running in the No. 91 Trackhouse Chevy in 2023, this time in the COTA race alongside Button.
Announcement: @JensonButton, the 2009 @F1 Champion, will drive our No. 15 @FordPerformance Mustang in three road course events this year. They are @NASCARatCOTA @NASCARChicago and @IMS #rickwareracing #Formula1 #NASCAR75 #roadcourses pic.twitter.com/wB6sYvmEYQ
— Rick Ware Racing (@RickWareRacing) March 9, 2023
So far, the F1-NASCAR crossover seems to be well-received by both fans and pundits, but some NASCAR drivers remain just cautiously optimistic. During last week's press conference at Phoenix Raceway, Kyle Busch seemed somewhat torn when asked for his reaction about Button and Räikkönen.
"I hope Kimi (Räikkönen) gets a better opportunity than he had his last time out; going out there and running a full race," Busch said. "But I think it's fun. I think it's great that they have that opportunity. Trackhouse won that race last year, so you know they'll be a force to be reckoned with. The SHR guys, I think are doing the No. 15 ride for Jenson (Button) It's cool to see the diversity of different backgrounds of drivers and where they come from."
"I'm not excited, but it's going to be cool to have them out there and be a part of our show. They're not used to the full contact sport of what NASCAR is. I'm sure Kimi's eyes were opened quite a bit on how all that went down at Watkins Glen. But he's more ready and more prepared this time around."
Busch's concern seems mostly centered around driver safety, but Button definitely seems up for the challenge when it comes to his new foray into NASCAR.
"I love that challenge of driving new things," Button said. "Every time an ex-F1 driver gets in a stock car these days, they struggle initially. It takes a while for them to get up to speed, so I don't expect to be right at the front straight away. But I'm not just doing it for fun in some one-off.
"I want to be competitive, and I know that to be competitive it's going to take a bit of time. That's why doing these three races works very well this season."
As for Räikkönen, the 43-year-old Finland native will be gunning for redemption when he hits the track in Texas.
"I had a fantastic time in NASCAR," Räikkönen said. "There was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, but everyone was very helpful; the competition was a big challenge. This time I get to race on a track I am familiar with, so there won't be as steep of a learning curve. I want to have fun, but also do as well as we can."
MORE: Chase Elliott Says Anyone Surprised by Kyle Busch's Impressive 2023 Start "Should Rethink Their NASCAR Knowledge"
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