Raikkonen’s NASCAR Trucks debut up close

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Lewis Hamilton had his first taste of NASCAR at Watkins Glen last week.

But his former rival Kimi Raikkonen has taken things a step further, starting a couple of races in NASCAR’s junior categories.

Jamey Price was at Charlotte Superspeedway last month to watch Raikkonen’s first race in a NASCAR Truck.

I have long been a Kimi Raikkonen fan. It’s no secret that the Iceman is notoriously self absorbed, quiet and rarely cracks a smile in anyone’s direction.

Much to my surprise, that Kimi Raikkonen that we all know from his Formula One years seems to have been pushed aside and in his place seems a genuinely humble, smiling and even an engaging character.

I was contracted to cover Raikkonen’s first attempt at NASCAR Truck racing at Charlotte Motorspeedway on May 20th as a photographer.

It was a first for me as well in that despite being born and raised in Charlotte North Carolina, I had never covered a NASCAR race at any level. I’ve been to a few, but never been paid to cover one with credentials.

My job was to cover Raikkonen’s every waking move from morning until night which made my job easier in that my eyes needed to be focused on only one man instead of covering the race as a whole.

Perky Jerky

After setting up in the media room and getting all the camera gear dialled-in and lenses all cleaned up, I walked toward the garage area where his crew were feverishly cleaning his car before the first practice session.

Raikkonen arrived in the garage after attending the rookie driver meeting and set about preparing himself to get in the car. They cranked up the engine and off he went to run his first laps of practice. It was immediately clear that he was off the pace and reports from the garage were that the car was ‘loose’ – oversteering.

I was standing on pit road shooting looking toward the start/finish line and lap after lap I noticed that cars he had been running with the previous time around were pulling away from him.

He came back to the garage spoke with the crew chief and made some changes to the car and went back out. You could tell he was frustrated with how the car was handling. He finished the first session 30th of 38 drivers with a time of 31.265s.

Second practice was not much better for the world champion. I had relocated to shoot from the outside wall at the exit of turn four where the cars come straight at you at around 300kph (almost 190mph).

Having never photographed NASCAR before, I can tell you it was quite exhilarating sitting inches away from the wall as the trucks roared past. I made some nice images of Kimi pushing the car around the turn and onto the front straight but there was little he could do to make an impression in the time sheets. He finished 30th again with a best time of 31.471s.

30th again

As the drivers readied for qualifying later in the day, I took advantage of the Sprint Cup practice to find some new vantage points to shoot Raikkonen’s qualifying run. I liked the angle from the bottom of turn four shooting up the track.

Not having a radio scanner or any way of knowing where Raikkonen would be in the randomly drawn qualifying order, I was more or less forced to shoot every truck as they qualified waiting to see the black and orange #15 Perky Jerky car that Raikkonen was driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

When he finally appeared, I snapped as many as I could and tried to capture as many different angles and styles as one can shoot with two laps and one lens. Raikkonen’s magic number for the day seemed to be 30th, since again he landed towards the back of the field posting the slowest lap time of his day.

I took advantage of the down-time between qualifying and the race to send some of the images off while waiting for the pre-race activities to begin. Raikkonen and the other truck drivers were introduced in front of the crowd about an hour before the race began

While wandering around looking for interesting things to shoot, I happened to glance up and see Raikkonen having a light hearted pre-race chat with former Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jnr.

The two seemed to be engaged and genuinely happy to see each other. Who knows what they were talking about but it was a short-lived conversation because it was time to introduce the world champion to the crowd.

Raikkonen’s name was called and he walked onto the stage with shades and Red Bull cap on his head, gave a quick wave and walked back toward the car which was sitting on pit road with his crew.

“Who’s that?” “Some Formula 1 champion…”

I am quite certain that NASCAR Truck racing has never had so much media attention. I remember very distinctly standing in the scrum with all the other media trying to get some interesting photos of Raikkonen before the race when I heard another truck driver walk by with a woman beside him.

She asked “what the heck is going on here?” The driver replied “It’s some Formula 1 world champion who’s trying NASCAR out for fun.”

I’m sure Raikkonen is used to the media, but many of the truck drivers live in relative obscurity and apart from their small contingent of fans, would never have a gaggle of photographers, TV crews and journalists all pushing and shoving to capture them before a race. This was a new experience for all involved.

Since I had a spot picked out on the start finish stretch about 300 yards down from the finish line, I had to leave the pit activities early and head toward my spot before they closed the track down and made it harder to get around.

Shooting wide open at f2.8 on a 300mm lens on a Nikon D3s, I shot the start of the race. Raikkonen got shuffled to the back early on. He was clearly uncomfortable with running in such a tight pack but as anyone who saw the race can attest, he quickly picked up his game.

I think I can speak for Raikkonen when I say we will both remember the race not for the racing itself, but for the number of cautions. It was absurd. There seemed to be a new incident every five minutes. It made for very frustrating work and very dull racing.

After shooting the first 50 laps, I walked back toward the pit lane to try and get one of the pit stops. After missing his first stop due to a miscommunication, I wasn’t sure how many chances I would get but I did manage to get one of his stops.

The rest of the race, I photographed his push through the field from the pit wall near his crew. He had definitely picked up the groove and was able to push a bit harder and actually look a bit like a racing driver again. I saw him pull some daring manoeuvres and was genuinely pleased that he finished the race a solid 15th.

Though his practice pace had been slow, he had been able to make the most of his racing ability and had certainly made an impression on the NASCAR community. It appears he will be running in the NASCAR Nationwide race this coming Friday and recently tested a Sprint Cup car in Virginia. Perhaps Raikkonen really is thinking of a permanent move to stock car racing. In any event, I was pleased his race ended well and that he appeared to enjoy the experience. I know I did.

Thanks to Sutton Images, Charlotte Motorspeedway and the photographers on site who made it a very enjoyable day in welcoming myself and Raikkonen to the NASCAR community with open arms.

This is a guest article by Jamey Price. Jamey is a sports photojournalist whose work has been published in a range of sporting publications worldwide. More of his photos can be found at www.jameypricephoto.com.

If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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Images © Jamey Price

59 comments on “Raikkonen’s NASCAR Trucks debut up close”

  1. Maybe he’s thinking about getting fat so is looking to switch to NASCAR as Montoya did :P

    Seriously though, i get the impression he wants to find a series that he can turn up to, get his adrenaline rush and then go home with the minimal amount of input or effort from him.

    1. Realll nice…

    2. Kimi’s always been about the racing and nothing else so that’s no surprise. He hates PR and all that jazz.

      1. If drivers hate the PR side so much how about turning down the outside sponsorships and living on the pitiful wage the team pays you?

        1. Most of the sponsorship and most of the PR work they have to do will be at the team’s behest. Personal driver sponsorship is a far smaller part of it. For example, look how little difference there is between team mates overalls.

          1. Yes and I haven’t spotted Kimi doing too many shampoo adverts.

  2. I really like that head on shot Jamey. And a very nice write up of the event.
    Who knows, some of us on this side of the pond might actually start watching F1 NASCAR if Kimi moved over.

    Although I hope he does only guest appearances for now and sticks with WRC until he gets some genuinly good results there.

    1. Adrian Morse
      20th June 2011, 21:16

      Actually, I’m hoping Kimi will move back to single-seater racing. If not in F1, then maybe in Indy; I’d like to see that. As far as rallying is concerned, if Kimi would have it in him to challenge for the win, it should have shown by now, but every time I look up some WRC results, I find him languishing in the back.

      1. For what it’s worth, he’s a champion in F1. And at least able to compete in both NASCAR and WRC.

        That in the modern world is no mean feat.

      2. Err No, not even the great Sebastian Loeb was winning rallies in his second season of rallying. Rallying has a lot to do with experience. Kimi is just showing how difficult rallying actually is, although he is doing a good job at it, especially this year. It is a shame that rally drivers are so underrated, they are some of the best.

      3. I’m a little late to the game, but no, rallying is a very different affair from any other racing. In other motorsports, you can simply follow your own instincts and do what feels best – including sidecar motorcycling. In rallying, however, you need to shut off some part of your own instincts and not only just blindly trust but also fully follow the notes the co-driver reads you. It’s very difficult to do – especially when driving on the very edge, which would be the top drivers on the WRC.

  3. When you think of it, its really nice he finished 15th, with the car number 15! Now if he would have had car nr. 30 …

    1. When you think of it, it’s really sad Massa finished 2nd in the 2008 championship, with car number 2!
      Now if he had car nr. 1…

      1. Yeah, that worked 4 years in a row for Schumacher at Ferrari :-D

  4. He has already put some weight on (according to the pic. Now that must show his dedication to becoming a real Nascar driver?

    1. Oh and I am sorry not to have noted Jamey : this was a very interesting read. I am very jealous : a f2.8 300 mm, (whistles in admiration and vents frustration, envy and anger :D)

  5. Shame that NASCAR trucks are anything but photogenic! Nice article though

  6. NASCAR have the best sponsors, can you imagine an F1 car with PERKY JERKY and CAMPING WORLD on them?

    For some reason I quite like the look of those trucks, probably too much iracing for me.

  7. HounslowBusGarage
    20th June 2011, 18:17

    Very nic head-on shot of the truck, great article too.

  8. Cool article, can we get more like this?

  9. It’s such a shame. A qualify driver deciding to drive crap…

    1. They don’t even know who he is. He’s a Formula One World Champion, for Heaven’s sake! They don’t deserve him.

      1. It’s a world away from F1. They’re not even comparable so there should be no real reason why they would know who he is.

      2. MVEilenstein
        21st June 2011, 0:33

        Plenty of us know who he is.

      3. “They dont deserve him”

        Apparently Kimi thinks they do. Let’em have his fun. Nothing wrong with sampling other types of racing. There’s alot more out there besides F1.

  10. Nice article. I actually quite like the trucks. I mean, not all F1 cars are pretty are they.

  11. I didn’t realise he managed to do so well, well done Kimi! He just had a good weekend in the WRC too.

    I really hope he stays in the WRC, I enjoy him there, I really do. However, the guy is clearly a born racer so whatever he does i’ll be sure to follow.

  12. William Wilgus
    20th June 2011, 22:33

    What does this have to do with F1?

    1. Have you heard of Kimi Raikkonen? Didn’t he used to drive in F1? I think he did. That must be it.

    2. World Champion? 2007? Ferrari? Runner up world champion 2005? Anything ring a bell to you? ;)

  13. A-Safieldin (@)
    21st June 2011, 0:12

    Honestly he’s in it for the money I doubt its as exciting as F1 or WRC. I saw this NASCAR driver on MTV Cribs, guys loaded. It’s a shame, I really was hoping Kimi would go to rallying and make everyone else look stupid.

    1. How on earth can you say “Honestly…” ? That’s just your opinion. He may well be in it for the money, don’t we all chase the income we can get? I don’t see anything wrong with that. What’s he supposed to do, become a pop star or something, would that be ok?

      Seriously though this kind of truck racing is actually really tough and Kimi has a helluva lot to learn to get to the front of the pack. It’s oval racing, it’s very different from road racing and requires a completely different set of skills to be successful.

      It may not be to everyone’s taste but neither is F1.

      1. MVEilenstein
        21st June 2011, 0:37


        1. NASCAR driver make peanuts compared to world champion F1 drivers. I seriously doubt he is doing it for the money.

    2. Kimi is not in it for the money,he is a pure racer.Nascar suits him better I think….although I would love to see him try Indy.Say what you want about Kimi but,the man is a hardcore racer through and through.(personality has nothing to do with how fast you can drive)

  14. I want to see Kimi in Moto GP with Rossi his team-mate,how cool will that be.

    1. LOL, nice Idea!

  15. Speaking of Raikkonen’s extra-curricular activities, I found some great footage of him on the New Loutraki power stage of the Rally Acropolis this weekend.

    1. thanks, I love the drifting in the gravel in that. A second behind, not bad.

      How did he do for the whole Rally?

      1. I think he was 6th or 7th overall.

  16. Nice article, and great photos, given the suspect. I don’t think I will be following NASCAR, trucks or otherwise, any time soon, but if I would be in the US, I wouldn’t mind going to a race or two for the atmosphere.

    1. suspect. Hm, more strong tea needed for me.

  17. Joakim Järvinen
    21st June 2011, 11:16

    uh, this article would have been nice one month ago..

    1. What a miserable piece of ingratitude. It’s not as if I’m charging you for it, is it?

    2. Actually having the NASCAR/F1 swap the other day makes it perfectly timed for me.

      And even if not, you don’t have to read it, nor comment on it.

      1. Actually, the article was written a month ago, but Keith has been a busy man and this is when he decided to slot it into the website. Maybe he should charge YOU for it.

        1. I guess that was targetted at Joakim! I fully agree with you

          Thanks for the great write up Jamey. Really nice to see and hear more about how Kimi was doing there.

  18. ferrari threw out the wrong driver at the end of 09 i mean what has massa done so far he hasent even won one race yet

  19. Great article
    I saw both kimi´s and hamilton´s experiences in nascar and one thing stands, they enjoyed it very much.
    Hopefully Kimi will try again since he was competitive from the beginning, didn´t took long to see him in the middle of the pack and trying to go forward,
    Everybody knows that Hamilton will stay in F1 for a long period of time but if there is an F1 driver that i would like to see in nascar, for sure hamilton is the one.

  20. Nice artice! :-)

    Charlotte speedway is definitively not the best place to make your Nascar debut, but Kimi made it work. One thing that personally impressed me the most about Kimi’s debut was his restarts. He didn’t lose too much places on the restarts and he almost immediately learned how to overtake others at the restarts. It is one thing that all of the single seater racers who have entered Nascar have struggled with. Kimi is the first one I have seen who hasn’t struggled with this. I think he could do really well in Nascar, but I doubt he will move to the states and do Nascar on a permanent basis. It was surprising to see how well Kimi blended in with the atmosphere and he was well received, this exercise was definitely a PR win.

    As for WRC, it is complicated to explain to others or to understand how difficult WRC can be if you don’t really follow it. This season WRC has been more competitive then it has been in quite a while. Kimi is just gaining experience all of the time, he has had a bit of bad luck with punctures for example – he has had a puncture in every single rally so far this year. But he is really doing well this year, he is definitely holding his own, especially for someone with his level of experience. Autosprint has just listed him as the 6th best driver this year, just one step behind the big five. It will be interesting to see what Kimi can do in the upcoming tarmac rounds, and also next season. Overall it has been a good year for him.

  21. Oh yeah I forgot to add another thing that really stood out and impressed a lot of people in Nascar, was Kimi’s unbelievable car control. His car was incredibly loose all of the time but somehow he managed to hanged on to it, it is always fun to actually see the drivers really working the car. The best story was properly when Carl Edwards came on the radio, and he didn’t know Kimi was driving in front of him, he asked over the radio who was driving in front of him because that person has incredible car control.

    1. I live in the States and have always been a big Kimi fan. I watched his practices and race at Charlotte and remember in one shot you could see the back end of his truck wiggling all over the place while entering a turn at around 170+mph. I was frightened that he would lose it, but he controlled it well without losing speed. Very impressive.

  22. Didn’t Hakkinen call it “Finnish Car Control”?

  23. I wish Kimi would come back to F1. Simple.

  24. Pretty Good article…As a Kimi Fan you’ve made my day….Never got to read too many good things about Kimi here when he was in Formula 1…He’s an incredible driver…He’s done pretty well in WRC this week too..7th is not too bad considering he was driving Nascar a week before Acropolis…

  25. I think Kimi and Kyle would make good F1 team mates…

  26. It’s incorrect to state that Kimi didn’t smile much in F1.

    You just didn’t bother to look, I guess… He smiled a lot!

    And guess what – he is much more talkative when he speaks in his native language. You are missing out a lot if you only hear (and understand!) his English. I think I can easily do better than Kimi in English interviews and I have much less experience from such situations compared to him. His English is not good and you should take this into notice when you are judging how talkative he is. He is *severely* limited in how expressive he can be when he uses English instead of Finnish.

    I’ve seen other native English speakers do this same mistake about Kimi too. They don’t really seem to get his personality. But Finnish people understand him well. I think you may be trying to match him to your culture and when he doesn’t fit, you think there is something wrong with him, when it’s in fact your unrealistic expectations and lack of understanding of cultural differences. Live a few years in Finland and you’ll begin to understand his seemingly quiet way to go about his business in F1 much, much better, I guarantee.

    In such more formal situations, such as in a press conference, Finns are more likely to let the current speaker speak, and they are listening (listening is important, or is it not?). Whilst for example an American or Spanish or French person can make a lot of noise on top of the speaker – this is not the norm in Finland. Here we (think we) respect the speaker and let him or her finish. That’s the norm. Obviously with exceptions, but generally that’s a big difference to the more outspoken cultures. It’s not that we don’t speak a lot, we are just waiting for the right moment to say something that has some meaning instead of blabbering all the time with not much to say.

    1. we are just waiting for the right moment to say something that has some meaning

      I’m still waiting for Raikkonen to say something that has some meaning..

      Sorry, cheap shot, couldn’t resist :-)

      1. Actually I think you’re still waiting to get his autograph after he didn’t stay and wait for you and broke your heart.

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