Button calls his first NASCAR stint “embarrassing” after finishing 18th at COTA


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Jenson Button recovered from a poor start and endured heat exhaustion and contact with another F1 champion to finish 18th on his NASCAR Cup debut.

The 2009 world champion qualified 24th for last weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas. It is the first of three rounds he has entered in this year’s championship, alongside his participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours driving a modified NASCAR in the ‘Garage 56’ category.

Button endured a tough start to his first race in a Ford Mustang entered by Stewart-Haas. “At first, it was terrible,” he admitted.

“I mean, I must’ve been last by the end of it, and I was just like, ‘Everyone, go. I just need to drive and find a rhythm.’”

“The first stint was really bad,” he continued. “It was embarrassing for me.” He soon pitted for tyres in an attempt to improve his car’s handling and have the chance to run free of traffic.

Button finished 18th in the 39-car field
“I was like, ‘Alright guys, we need to pit, freshen the tyres and I need some air. I need some fresh air.’ I got that. The pace was good, consistency was good. I was really happy, and passed a few cars, which was nice.

“We got a little bit unlucky with the Safety Car because it was just two laps before our window. [We] pitted, then the next stint was mayhem. We also made a couple of changes that just didn’t work. Big oversteer – went from the car feeling great to really difficult to drive.”

The winner of 15 grands prix admitted to took time to adjust to the frantic and physical nature of NASCAR racing.

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“I’ve never gone through a corner two wide, so often. And trying to place my car in the right place – I just got it wrong every time.

Punishing cockpit temperatures forced Button to pit twice
“Normally, if you’re a little bit slow through a corner, nobody tries to overtake you from the outside – because they’re not going to make it all the way on the next one. But here they do, because they get a wheel inside for the next one, and if you turn in, you turn around.”

Button tangled with fellow F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who also took part in yesterday’s race, and finished 29th after lining up two places ahead of Button.

“I also had a massive whack from Kimi and it fell off after that,” said Button. “The car wasn’t quite right. Every time I turned in, the rear tyres would chatter, then immediately to oversteer.”

He felt happier with the car towards the end of the race but struggled with the heat inside the closed cockpit as the 75-lap race took three-and-a-half hours to complete.

“It was really difficult, but toward the end we made some good calls stopping and putting on fresh tyres,” said Button. “I enjoyed the last three restarts – got good placement and good overtaking moves from the outside.

“Finished 18th after almost stopping because I had heat exhaustion. It was so hot. I don’t have a fan in my seat, which really didn’t help me too much. It was so hot, I thought I was going to faint in the car. So, I stopped twice for a minute. They put ice on me, gave me loads of water, and I went back out.

“I was so close to getting out of the car because I thought I was going to faint. I must’ve drank eight, nine bottles of water during the race. The team kept me calm, and it’s the reason why we got a good result in the end. So, I was happy.”

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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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8 comments on “Button calls his first NASCAR stint “embarrassing” after finishing 18th at COTA”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    27th March 2023, 11:43

    The potential to finish higher is definitely there. He would have known he couldn’t just turn up and run at the front. If he sticks at it, the results will come.

  2. It was a fun little race to watch but the complete lack of track limits made it look like an amateur race. I’ll keep watching if Kimi returns but I’d rather watch him in WRC or rallycross.

    1. I liked that it shined a light on the “the floor is lava” game F1 has had to play where they make pretend that the track limits are smaller than what they actually are.

      1. @huhhii @mrmuffins I totally agree. There were track limits — Nascar just chose to make them the grass and the wall, which I much prefer to F1’s white-line approach. Of course, in many cases, the white line and runoff are designed to meet Grade 1 standards. But here we have cars designed to smash into walls lining 200 mph turns with zero runoff. If the cars don’t need Grade 1 standards, then why not let them use everything that’s paved?

        1. @markzastrow I disagree. There was a caution period just because they had to clean the track from all the dirt caused by cars going constantly off (either running deliberately wide or blatantly cutting the corners). It all looked utterly ridiculous and amateurish.

          Run-offs are also more bumpier than the proper track so a race like that is a danger hazard. I think there was a crash in Indycar caused by the bumps outside the track (Indycar ran with similar no-tracklimits rules).

          Of course COTA as a track could do with the improvements as well since track limits are always been talked about when F1 visits the town. Artificial grass instead of all-asphalt runoffs?

          1. @huhhii Fair points.

            Different strokes for different folks, I guess — what you see as ridiculous and amateurish, I enjoy as a display of driver creativity in exploiting nontraditional lines and taking risks in the runoff. The sight of cars running roughshod over the FIA’s precious white lines doesn’t offend my sensibilities, it excites them. Graham Hill said he was an artist; the track was his canvas, and the car was his brush. The FIA’s approach forces drivers to paint by numbers, precisely within the lines. I can appreciate that, but I also love watching drivers unleashed, throwing their cars around Jackson Pollack-style, wherever they are physically able.

            I do appreciate that US motorsport — perhaps because of its oval tradition — tends to emphasize natural track limits, placing the burden on the track design to police drivers rather than on the drivers to police themselves or the officials to police the drivers. I like that. If the track allows you to get away with cutting a corner (just like in rallying or rallycross), I say fair play — e.g. Zanardi’s pass at the Corkscrew, or the use of aprons on ovals like Phoenix or, in decades past, Indianapolis.

            To your point about the dirt at COTA, I agree with you — it would be nice to see properly designed kerbs or other physical deterrents like grass at the actual edge of the tarmac. But in lieu of that, I don’t blame Nascar for saying, to hell with it, and letting them run wherever they could.

  3. Button’s smooth driving should be good for Nascar but the rest of the time Nascar is a mad house. I’m not sure how he can live with that.

  4. The enforced track limits in the esses. Drivers got penalized, including the defending series champion.

    It was a fun race, until overtime. Then it kind of dragged along.

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