CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kimi Raikkonen retired to Switzerland on the finish of final yr’s Method One season and has blissfully spent the final eight months along with his younger household.

Did he miss racing?

“Probably not, no,” the 2007 F1 champion mentioned.

But right here he’s, not even a full yr into retirement, and Raikkonen will race once more.

Raikkonen will race Sunday at Watkins Glen Worldwide in upstate New York in — and this is not a typo — a NASCAR occasion. The driving force referred to as “The Iceman” for his unintentionally droll manner was persuaded to get again behind the wheel by TrackHouse Racing and its bold, purpose-driven Project91 program.

Project91 was created to lift NASCAR’s worldwide profile with prime drivers from different formulation by Justin Marks, the 41-year-old former driver and now co-owner of NASCAR’s scorching, new successful group. He was ready to personally fund the debut race at Watkins Glen, a highway course the place TrackHouse ought to compete for the win.

Tops on Marks’ listing of prospects was Raikkonen, who had beforehand competed in each an Xfinity Collection and Truck Collection race at Charlotte Motor Speedway throughout one weekend in 2011, the season Raikkonen took a one-year sabbatical in his 19-year F1 profession. There was some bemusement over Raikkonen’s mere presence in NASCAR’s hotbed, however probably the most memorable a part of his temporary NASCAR profession was that he was sponsored by Perky Jerky.

Even so, Raikkonen was when first introduced this NASCAR provide. Marks then sealed the deal in February by travelling to Raikkonen’s dwelling in Switzerland to make his pitch in individual to the Finnish driver.

“I needed to discover anyone that might give quick legitimacy to it and be inquisitive about doing it. And to me, actually shortly, it was Kimi,” Marks mentioned. “The genesis of Project91 was simply my want as a race fan to see cool issues occur in racing. A Method One driver coming to NASCAR and being aggressive on the Cup degree is a cool factor and if we have been going to launch this factor, clearly we would have liked anyone related globally to set it off.”

Marks has not divulged what it value to rent Raikkonen for one race; he joked as soon as that the journey to Switzerland was “costly” and final week deadpanned Raikkonen was drawing a $1 million wage earlier than insisting he was joking.

Both manner, the No. 91 Chevy picked up two sponsors to pay for a few of Project91 in Recogni and iLOQ, a pair of know-how corporations.

In an interview with The Related Press, the 42-year-old Raikkonen admitted he casually follows NASCAR and has been intrigued by the inventory automobile sequence for greater than a decade. He had hoped to additionally run a Cup Collection race again in 2011, nevertheless it by no means occurred and he returned to F1, the place he received the ultimate three of his 21 profession victories over the next decade.

Raikkonen was intrigued by each NASCAR and its new Subsequent Gen spec automobile, which debuted this yr and equalized the competitors among the many elite prime groups together with, properly, the upstart TrackHouse Racings of the storage. TrackHouse has three Cup wins in its second season and each Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez are certified for the playoffs.

“I believe any time there’s an equal probability to win in a sequence it’s good, I believe it is good, and what I heard once I talked to individuals in regards to the new automobile is that it’s fairly even with all people,” Raikkonen instructed AP. “It is nonetheless a studying section for all groups with the brand new automobile.”

This undertaking was introduced in Might, lengthy earlier than TrackHouse was formally thought of a superb, championship-calibre group, however Raikkonen mentioned he was satisfied by Marks throughout their assembly. Marks’ entryway to Raikkonen’s dwelling was through a mutual shut buddy.

At the same time as he hopped the globe for F1’s schedule within the 10 years since his two-race NASCAR foray, Raikkonen at all times saved a watch on the sequence. So he knew a brand new automobile was coming when he met with Marks, who he mentioned “was very trustworthy” about his intentions for this system and TrackHouse’s capabilities.

“I believe he got here as a really trustworthy and easy man and no person has promised any large factor,” Raikkonen mentioned. “The one factor we will do is do our greatest and hope we get a superb consequence. You by no means know, any class or any racing you select, you simply by no means know what’s going to occur. And so I trusted what he was saying they usually’ve been doing fairly properly. In NASCAR, it could simply occur.”

Raikkonen mentioned he has had a number of presents to race within the final eight months, however that Marks’ is the one one “that to this point I’ve mentioned sure.”

He is enthused partly as a result of he will get to do one thing model new and expertise it along with his spouse and two younger youngsters, who’ve occupied his time in retirement. He mentioned lastly having a standard schedule has allowed for expanded household time and a summer time spent on vacation round Europe.

He introduced “The Ice Cubes” to the US after three days with TrackHouse spent on the store, the Chevrolet simulator after which a NASCAR-sanctioned check at Virginia Worldwide Raceway. The household met in New York Metropolis and can journey this weekend upstate to arrange for Sunday’s race.

His son, who’s seven, is now racing in each go-karts and motocross, however he mentioned his 5-year-old daughter has much less curiosity within the sport. He wasn’t fairly positive what both is aware of about NASCAR.

“I have not requested them, they will determine it out,” Raikkonen mentioned.

Project91 hopes to provide worldwide drivers an opportunity to run designated Cup races and a NASCAR-record seven international locations might be represented Sunday. He agrees with the idea of Project91 to open alternatives for worldwide drivers curious in regards to the prime motorsports sequence in the US.

“I am fairly positive there may be some telephone calls to Justin already,” Raikkonen mentioned of drivers. Actually, Marks has had early talks with keen four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who desires to run subsequent yr’s Daytona 500; Marks has mentioned Project91 should full its debut race earlier than it could completely talk about future occasions.

“I believe it is a fantastic alternative for drivers from Europe as a result of it isn’t very straightforward to come back from Europe to the U.S. to race,” mentioned Raikkonen. “Individuals can get challenges and perhaps they’ll come right here and have a protracted future as a result of it’s a good sport. I believe it’s nice what Justin is doing.”

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