“I think some of these guys from F1, or from an open-wheel background I should say, [are] trying to take a step into NASCAR and are seeing that it is pretty neat. It kind of gives a world presence to NASCAR. Everybody thinks that F1 is the world series, [but] I think [with] NASCAR, as big as it is, a lot of drivers want to see how they can do over here and how they can have a feel for a race car over here.
“Adding one of the most talented drivers in the world is a continuation of building a team of proven winners and champions at KBM. He seems to be good in whatever he's been able to race in. I look forward to assisting in Kimi's transition to NASCAR as both an owner and team-mate.”
“We are extremely excited to have Kimi Raikkonen begin his transition to NASCAR behind the wheel of Kyle Busch Motorsports' Toyota Tundra,” echoed Ren said. “As NASCAR looks to expand its fan base and generate further interest in certain demographics, having a former F1 World Champion with worldwide appeal is a huge deal, not just for KBM but for the sport as a whole.”
A more extensive schedule of races depends upon Raikkonen's ability to bring further funding to the cause, it is understood, but should his transition go well, the 31-year-old has reportedly hinted at a future switch to the headlining Sprint Cup Series.
Whatever he does, his signing is irrefutably a major coup for NASCAR, and in throwing his hat into the ring, he will follow in the wheel tracks of erstwhile McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya as well as the likes of fellow ex-F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, Nelsinho Piquet, current grand prix returnee Narain Karthikeyan, Max Papis and Scott Speed, who have encountered mixed fortunes there.
Montoya has expressed his concern that 'my first choice wouldn't be Charlotte to start my first race', but Busch is adamant that whilst the North Carolina track is not an easy one for a NASCAR rookie compared to the superspeedways – where handling is less important – it was Raikkonen's own desire to begin there, stressing that it will be less gruelling in the Truck Series than it would in either the Nationwide Series or Sprint Cup.
“It's a big deal for him to be able to fit it in when he can, and Charlotte, they actually picked Charlotte,” explained the 25-year-old defending race-winner. “For whatever reason, they were adamant about Charlotte and running that race. It'll be good for him to get his feet wet. I would say that if he can run top 15 or top 20 in his first truck race, that would be a success.”
“I think Kimi Raikkonen has got enough experience to debut at a place like that,” concurred Dale Earnhardt Jnr. “He'll be in great equipment – you couldn't ask for any better equipment there – so I think it'll be fine. It should work out great.”