Full-time NASCAR drive a “possibility” for Button if wildcard races successful

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Jenson Button says it is a “possibility” that he could get the chance to compete in a full NASCAR Cup series season in 2024 if his three guest appearances this year are successful.

The 2009 world champion will make his NASCAR debut at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday 26th March. The former Williams, Renault, Honda, Brawn and McLaren F1 driver, who lives with his family in the United States, will race in the number 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang at three road course races, including NASCAR’s first ever street circuit round in Chicago in July and the Indianapolis road course event in August.

Button, who competed in Super GT in Japan after retiring from Formula 1 – becoming GT500 champion in 2018 – has never raced in a stock car before. He says he has long held a desire to race in NASCAR, stemming from having watched the Tom Cruise NASCAR film ‘Days of Thunder’ on Channel 4 as a child.

“For a very long time I’ve watched NASCAR – a couple of decades,” Button told media including RaceFans after his entry was announced.

Button will start his first NASCAR race later this month at COTA
“Growing up in the UK, we had four channels on TV back then, back in the late eighties, and we didn’t get any real sport outside of European sport. So it was actually Days of Thunder that first of all brought me to NASCAR, because it’s the first time I got to see any NASCAR.

“It’s so different to what I’m used to. And I think that’s probably what stopped me asking the question whether I’d be able to race in NASCAR, because it’s so different to anything I’ve driven before. And also back then it was more ovals – there weren’t really any street courses. So that didn’t excite me so much because it’s another skill set altogether. But now there are more road courses, it’s definitely more enticing and also I think I would be more competitive.”

Button competed in 17 seasons in Formula 1 between 2000 and 2016, starting 306 grands prix and winning 15 of them. After fellow F1 champions Jacques Villeneuve and Kimi Raikkonen both raced in NASCAR’s premier class in the Daytona 500 and at Watkins Glen, respectively, last year, Button says he is excited to explore the uniquely relaxed atmosphere of racing in NASCAR compared to Formula 1.

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“I don’t want to be negative about Formula 1, because it is an amazing sport – I’m an F1 world champ, so I spent most of my life there – but you’re so focussed,” Button explained. “Your family doesn’t come to the races because teams don’t really want them to be there because they know that your focus is so important.

Raikkonen took part in last year’s NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen
“It’s very tough because it’s your life. It is everything – everything you do is for Formula 1. And I did it for 17 years. You’re in this world and you forget about everything else – all that matters is making you a better racing driver and a better Formula 1 driver. So when you step outside that for me, it’s exciting to do other things.

“And with NASCAR, it’s a much more relaxed atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong – the racing is very serious and these are some of the best drivers in the world. But the atmosphere outside the car, the atmosphere at the track, it’s a lot more relaxed. It’s more of a family-based category. So I think that’s why we like it, because it’s trying something different.

“Jacques raced last year, Kimi did a race last year and everyone seems to enjoy it. I think it’s also because we love another challenge. It’s trying something different. We’re not just F1 drivers, we’re racing drivers.”

While Button will only be competing in road course and street circuit races as part of his three-race deal, he says he does not believe it would be wise for him to try his hand at an oval race at Cup Series level without first getting experience in one of NASCAR’s junior categories first.

“For me, it’s not just driving the racing car,” he said. “You know, a racing car is a racing car – it’s very different to what I’m used to, but you get to grips with it over time. It’s the racing that’s a lot more difficult.

“It’s having cars all around you, having a spotter telling you who’s where and a lot of the time you’re stuck in the middle and you can’t really do much. It’s just a very different type of racing. And that’s the bit I think would take a while. I can go and drive on an oval and I’m sure it would take me time, but I would get to grips with it – especially a circuit like Daytona, where it’s flat the whole way around – but it’s when you put other cars into the equation and the drafting and the pushing… it’s a lot to learn. Doing that in the Cup series probably isn’t the best way, me jumping in a Cup car at Daytona. I think it might be better to do it in a lower category first and get a bit of experience that way.”

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Button is not dismissing the prospect of him competing in NASCAR beyond 2023 or even earning a full time entry into the championship. However, he admits any chance of him racing in the future will depend on his performance during his first three races.

“There’s always a possibility, I guess, but it’s all down to performance,” Button admitted. “These three races, the reason why I’ve got the drive is because of what I’ve done previously and my relationship with Mobil 1, but if they don’t go well, it’s not going to go well for 2024 in terms of getting a driver for a full season.

“If I like the championship, if I like the car, if I think it’s fun and an enjoyable and I can be competitive – there’s always that possibility. But as I said, it’s a lot of learning in a very different way than I’m used to.”

In the summer, Button will represent NASCAR in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, where the North American series has entered a modified Cup car for the centenary edition of the race under Garage 56 rules, which offers experimental or exceptional entries to compete outside of the existing classes. Button will race NASCAR’s Garage 56 entry with Mike Rockenfeller and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who Button says encouraged him to accept the opportunity to race in NASCAR.

“Jimmy’s been very useful. Not just with this, but with my Garage 56 project,” he said. ” He’s driven stock cars his whole life, so we all know how difficult it is to shift from an open-wheel, high-downforce car to a stock car and vice versa.

“I’d say my biggest point of contact over the last four or five months has been Jimmy and it’s because we’ve worked together quite a bit on Garage 56. Which is obviously very different to a Cup car – it’s kind of like eight seconds quicker a lap. But we’ve done three tests already and we’ve been together for all three of them.

“I said to him when I had this opportunity, I was like, ‘what do you think? Should I do it?’ He said, ‘mate, you definitely have to do it’. He said, ‘you’ll have a blast.’ I was like, ‘right, I’m in!’. So if Jimmy thinks it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be fun.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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10 comments on “Full-time NASCAR drive a “possibility” for Button if wildcard races successful”

  1. JB in NC that’s Cool

  2. Remember, at the next corner, turn left. So fascinating to watch

    1. COTA, that famous left-turn-only track.

      1. I’m pretty sure he was talking about Nascar in general…

    2. It literally says in the article that he is only doing road courses

  3. JB the new Tom Cruise 🏁

  4. I don’t mind this, he isn’t going to win anything and is probably blocking an opportunity for someone younger coming through. But a bit like Mansell in BTCC, Kubica in WRC, Kimi being a tree surgeon or whatever he is doing this week. It’s interesting to see if their skills are transferable.

    It might be a novelty, but it’s fun to see how they get on. None of them are trying to be the best in the world at this point, and presumably doing it because they enjoy the challenge. Motorsport at the end of the day is entertainment If he spends the next five years coming 18th, then yeah, maybe time to move aside. But I like the idea of drivers moving to alien formulas. It’s something that slowly moved out of fashion over the years.

  5. Does he have the required nascar super license points ? LoL
    Glad nascar doesnt have that BS.

  6. Jenson Button Circuit of the Americas Sunday 26th March. Got it. I could see Lance Stroll doing World Endurance Championship & Le Mans 24 Hours one day. For some reason I think he would be good.

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