Could F1 be NASCAR’s next farming system?

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NASCAR and Formula 1 don’t have much in common.

Stock cars versus open wheel, gas cans versus off-road plug-in hybrids, pack races and paint swapping on ovals versus open spaces on twisty courses. Other than the two involving four-wheeled vehicles, the two series hardly seem to be the same sport.

But there has been the occasional fearless driver who has tried his hand at both disciplines, most recently former Red Bull entrant Daniil Kvyat, who finished 36th at this year’s NASCAR event at the Indianapolis road course. Kvyat drove for new road-course specialist NASCAR Team Hezeberg, which also put former Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve in its car for the Daytona 500 in February.

August 21stKimi Räikkönen will attempt to do what only Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya have achieved before – become a race winner in both series.

The venue where Räikkönen will be driving, the former Formula 1 playground at Watkins Glen, will be of interest to long-time fans. Gurney and Andretti made several attempts to win the United States Grand Prix in upstate New York, and both achieved the best finishes of second place, as well as many other efforts that went off the rails. due to mechanical problems.

If the story of The Glen plays a role in the Finn’s arrival in the American series, he does not say so. But then, Räikkönen never says much publicly.

If he were to actually go home first, it would be interesting to see how American fans would react to Kimi’s inevitable post-race interview involving terse responses and what appears to be close to hate for any questioner. .

Of course, winning in a one-time effort with no experience in the current car is beyond long odds. But Räikkönen isn’t entirely a NASCAR rookie – he did a truck race and a Nationwide (now Xfinity) race in 2011, and has the advantage over his former rivals of a car prepared by two-time 2022 winner Trackhouse Racing. , but even a finish in the lead lap would be considered an impressive result.

What is unprecedented this year is the general interest in NASCAR from outside the United States. With the growth of Formula 1 in America, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see interest coming from the other side as well.

While most of the world still seems uninterested and perhaps confused by racing on ovals, NASCAR now races on two historic Formula 1 road circuits (Indianapolis being the other) and the two series have a common venue at the Circuit. of the Americas.

Trackhouse employs Räikkönen as part of its PROJECT91, a venture aimed at making NASCAR a more global series, as well as broadening the team’s visibility.

While Räikkönen’s adventure at Watkins Glen may be based more on personal fulfillment than victory (or maybe not, it’s hard to tell with Kimi), there is one Formula 1 driver who might be interested in getting more involved in American stock cars.

Could NASCAR be in Daniel Ricciardo’s future if he leaves Formula 1 after this season? Photo: USA Today Sports/Jerome Miron

Daniel Ricciardo, famous Americanophile and self-proclaimed NASCAR fan, appears to be out of work at this point for 2023. And while he’s still looking for a full-time job in Formula 1, there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Ricciardo has said in the past that he’s not interested in racing on ovals (although we’ve heard that before), but the possibility of joining the ranks of road course specialists in the American series is intriguing.

The laid-back Aussie reportedly has more potential as a Trackhouse brand ambassador than the reserved Räikkönen, and it seems hard to imagine anything making him happier than a victory in Austin, an annual trip that he relishes.

Just four years ago, Ricciardo was, if not at the top of the Formula 1 world, at least close enough to have it in sight, finishing in the top six overall in points for three consecutive years. But after deciding to first leave leaders Red Bull for Renault and then move back to McLaren, he finds himself at 33 – considered by many to have his best days in Formula 1 behind him.

Financially fixed, his options could be to follow Raikkonen’s path of spending several years as a former statesman for an uncompetitive team or take the opportunity to seek fulfillment elsewhere.

Ricciardo is certainly well aware of how drivers like Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson have found the transition to life as American IndyCar drivers a pleasant change from the ultra-trench environment of F1, and Ricciardo certainly seems to be someone who would appreciate a more fun workplace.

With or without Ricciardo, NASCAR must have its eye on young American fans who are looking to F1. As NASCAR continues to generate the most viewership, its increasingly older demographic should be of concern.

While Trackhouse co-owners Justin Marks and “Mr. Worldwide” Pitbull may be paving the way for an international future for the series, it will be interesting to see how much the old guard wants to follow suit.

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