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Rookie Raikkonen: out onto the NASCAR stage

Raikkonen's only just out of his rookie year with WRC, but he's putting himself through the newbie process all over again to try out NASCAR. How does a new driver get to grips with the challenges facing him in a new series? Unlike F1 (and even WRC) where drivers get to use state of the art simulators and slightly less advanced PlayStation games to familiarise themselves with the cars and with the tracks they'll be racing on, there's no substitute in NASCAR to just getting in the vehicle and going out there.

"We've sent him a few videos the past couple of years of truck racing at Charlotte," said his new team boss, Kyle Busch. "He'll get a good view of what to expect with the in-car stuff, listening to throttle control, how much you're on the gas and how to race people."

Kimi has already had some track time in a NASCAR Truck, starting with two days of testing at Gresham Motorsports Park and a third at Rockingham, a popular test venue for NASCAR teams from all three national series. Kimi impressed the Kyle Busch Motorsports team with how fast he was able to be, and how quickly he was up to speed.

"He did a great job - he jumped right in the truck and was up to pretty good speed right out of the gate," said Busch. "I got in the truck right after him on the hot tyres and went out there and ran the same lap times as he did. I couldn't go any faster."

Raikkonen's crew chief for Charlotte will be Doug Howe, who saw victory lane at Daytona earlier this year with Michael Waltrip. Busch's own crew chief Eric Phillips worked with Raikkonen at the Gresham and Rockingham tests and said that he had been "really impressed. He did a great job ... When we got to Rockingham, in four laps, he'd run faster than we'd been there testing with Brian [Ickler] or Tayler [Malsam] last year."

"Of all of our NASCAR national series, the Truck Series has the most downforce, but it's also the draggiest", said Truck Series director Wayne Auto, agreeing that it made Trucks a good fit with Raikkonen's career experience of high downforce/high power-to-weight ratio racing. Be he cautioned Raikkonen that no matter how much solo testing a driver does, it barely prepares him for the sensation of driving in traffic with other cars running alongside just millimetres away.

"I think that's going to be his hardest adjustment: What does it feel like, especially for somebody in the Truck Series, when somebody's on that right side," Auton said. "Because if you don't know what it feels like, it will pull you around. And I don't care how great a driver you are ... You can't sit here and tell anybody that. They've got to get that feel for it on the race track," he added. "Kimi Raikkonen is used to having someone on that right side, but it's not pulling that vehicle and tugging on it."

Narain Karthikeyan warned that in his experience, it was as much enemy action as aerodynamic happenstance that caused new drivers to fly off the track: "They bump you off and everything ... They just move you out of the way and then you need to get aggressive and take control."

Many critics of NASCAR like to deride how easy it is to merely "drive around in circles" with no complicated track layouts to learn and develop lines through. But Auton pointed out that the simplicity is deceptive and that oval racing has its own brand of infinite subtlety, just like road courses.

"We go into things like, 'Here's how this race track races compares to other race tracks that you've raced at. You may have been here before, but this turn's a little different. You want to run high here, you want to run low here," he explained. "Learning the line is probably the hardest thing that a rookie can do. Kimi's coming into a race track that's so track sensitive that one lap, it'll be this and the next lap, it's something totally different."

Kyle Busch - being Kyle Busch - takes a plainer, simpler view of things. "As far as the truck goes, it's pretty simple.




Related Pictures

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Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Citroen DS3 WRC, ICE 1 Racing
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Citroen DS3 WRC, ICE 1 Racing
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Splash-FVP/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnny Sauter, driver of the #98 Nextant/Curb Records Toyota, leads the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, crosses the finishline to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
German Quiroga, driver of the #77 NET10 Wireless Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, sits on the grid under an umbrella prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Back Row L-R) Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kelloggs/Frosted Flakes Ford, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Catepillar Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Gwaltney Ford, (Front Row L- R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Bush`s Beans Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, pose with the Sprint Cup Trophy after qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Back Row L - R) Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kelloggs/Frosted Flakes Ford, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Catepillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Madison Martin, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Gwaltney Ford, (Front Row L- R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Bush`s Beans Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose with the Sprint Cup Trophy after qualifying for the Chase  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway on September 5, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway on September 5, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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