Button to enter NASCAR races at COTA, Chicago and Indianapolis

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Jenson Button will make his debut in the NASCAR Cup championship later this month in his first of three appearances in America’s leading motorsport series.

The 2009 Formula 1 world champion will enter the sixth round of the championship at the Circuit of the Americas, home of the United States Grand Prix, on March 26th. Button will take part in two other races away from NASCAR’s oval tracks, at a new street circuit in Chicago on July 2nd and the Indianapolis road course, where he has previously raced, on August 13th.

His Ford Mustang will be run by Rick Ware Racing with support from Stewart-Haas Racing – the latter operation run by the same Gene Haas who owns an F1 team. Button was previously announced as part of the line-up which will compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 11th in a modified NASCAR under the race’s ‘Garage 56’ classification for alternative entries.

The winner of 15 grands prix has tested the Garage 56 machine at Sebring, Daytona and the Circuit of the Americas. He said the experience reassured him he could adapt to the challenge of competing in dramatically different cars to the ones he enjoyed so much success in.

Button’s Ford Mustang NASCAR livery
“The first time I jumped into the Garage 56 car, it was like, ‘What have I done? This is so different,’ and that lasted about four laps,” said Button. “Then it was like, ‘Hang on, it’s still a race car. It’s got four tyres that touch the road. It’s a mechanical race car, which is even better for learning.’ I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.

“A Cup car has a lot less downforce and is a lot heavier, but the Garage 56 car has given me an idea of what it will be like along with a direction, which is really useful.”

He won’t be the only F1 champion on the grid for this month’s race in Austin. Kimi Raikkonen, who won the title two years before Button, was confirmed as part of Trackhouse Racing’s line-up two days ago.

However Button played down expectations of what he can achieve when he joins a NASCAR field which has featured 36 regular entrants this year.

“I know in my first race I’m not expected to be qualifying right at the front and I’m not expected to be fighting for a victory,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the drivers racing in the Cup series. There’s so much talent there, whether it’s on ovals or road courses.”

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“Ten years ago, people used to say NASCAR guys can’t drive around a circuit, but I think they’ve proven that they can,” he continued. “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. That’s why, for me, doing more than one race is really key so I can get the best out of myself and the best out of the car.”

NASCAR held its second race at COTA last year
Button started 306 F1 races between 2000 and 2017 and admitted he was eager to try different competitions afterwards. “The reason I was able to stay in Formula 1 for so long was because I always felt I was learning,” Button explained. “There was always something new in terms of technologies, or I could still improve my driving or engineering skills within Formula 1.

“When I got to my 17th year in F1, I felt like I lost that hunger a little bit because it wasn’t new anymore. There wasn’t something new to learn.”

Since then he has sampled a range of different machinery including sports cars in Japan’s Super GT series, prototypes in the World Endurance Championship and electric SUVs in Extreme E, in which he owns a team. The 43-year-old appreciated the opportunity to “try different series that excited me,” he said.

“I raced Super GT in Japan. I raced at Le Mans. I raced off-road because it was another skill to learn. You put yourself in a slightly vulnerable position because it’s not your complete skill set, and there’s still more to learn to be as good as the best. I love that challenge of driving new things. It’s slightly out of my comfort zone, and I found that out with off-road trucks.”

Mobil 1 is sponsoring Button’s NASCAR entry. “I won the world championship with Mobil 1 and 14 of my 15 wins in Formula 1 were with Mobil 1, as well as winning the Super GT championship with them,” he said. “We’ve had a really close relationship over the years and I can’t think of a better partner.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “Button to enter NASCAR races at COTA, Chicago and Indianapolis”

  1. Austin’s NASCAR race will probably be more exciting and interesting than the whole 2023 F1 season.

  2. I wish they would turn NASCAR into a US version of V8 Supercars, I would totally watch that. They could even keep the big ovals races like Daytona and Brickyard.

    1. What you describe already exists and is called the TransAm series.

      1. +1 TA2 is super, cars, V8. I discovered it because it was support category to Aussie V8s. Now following Nathan Hearne in US championship

      2. I just went and searched for an article on “TransAm” and it looks amazing, but what got me were the ages of the two drivers the article was about – they are KIDS ! literally, the kind of age where you’d expect them to still be in karting – it shocked me I can tell you, but the cars look wicked too, pity we don’t get coverage in the UK.

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