The news of Kimi Raikkonen's try-out in NASCAR
in the Camping World Truck Series first broke almost two months ago: and even after all this time, it still sounds like a bit of a huge April Fool's Day joke.
But on Friday, May 20 it becomes a reality as 2007 F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen heads out onto Charlotte Motor Speedway to make his NASCAR
series debut with the Kyle Busch Motorsports team.
The one current NASCAR
Sprint Cup driver who has any idea of what's in store for Raikkonen is the driver who made a similar transition from the glamorous world of F1 to the more down-to-earth scene of American stock car racing - his former McLaren team mate Juan Pablo Montoya.
So what advice can the Colombian offer the new arrival from Finland?
"Keep working at it and listen to the advice people give you," says Montoya. "Ask questions and spend as much time behind the wheel, getting seat time, as you can."
Montoya knows what he's talking about: NASCAR
hasn't come easy for him since he arrived in the series in 2007 after becoming disenchanted with the world of F1. He won the Sonoma road race in his rookie year and has since had three top-five and six top-10 finishes, and even become the first non-American to make it into the Chase at the end of the 2009 regular season. But oval victories and a Sprint Cup title still seem very far off for him.
"It'll be a tough transition but if he dedicates his time to [NASCAR], he should be okay," said Montoya. "He'll adjust after some time ... It's a big transition all around and just one of those things he'll need to get used to.
"He's a great race car driver but he'll need to learn to take care of his equipment in NASCAR. I know he likes to drive his cars hard and you can't do that over here."
Despite the fact that Montoya and Raikkonen entered F1 in the same year - 2001 - they came from very different backgrounds even then. Montoya had battled his way up through the US racing scene and won the Indy 500 race and the CART series title before moving to F1 as a very proven winner; Raikkonen on the other hand emerged out of nowhere, a karting star with unproven senior formula experience who needed special dispensation from the FIA
to get a super-license to join Sauber. Within a year he had made a splash on the track and been snapped up by McLaren as "the next big thing", duly going on to win the world title with Ferrari in 2007 - something Montoya himself never did.
So what does Montoya think about Raikkonen's decision to try his hand at NASCAR
"I think that it's cool that he's coming over to NASCAR. He's a cool guy and I think he will fit right in," he says, before offering a word of caution. "[But] my first choice wouldn't have been Charlotte [for a debut.] That's a tough track in general. I would've picked Talladega or Daytona