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Raikkonen to make Nationwide debut, still debating F1

Kimi Raikkonen has bucked his recent trend of persistent denials by conceding that perhaps F1 isn't a closed book for him after all - as he prepares to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with NEMCO Motorsports
Kimi Raikkonen will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series bow in this coming weekend's Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it has been confirmed – as the former F1 World Champion has again evoked the notion of an eventual return to the grand prix grid.

After finishing a respectable 15th from 31st on his Camping World Truck Series debut for Kyle Busch Motorsports in last Friday night's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 around the same 1.5-mile Charlotte oval – a race won by team-mate Kyle Busch, and in which Raikkonen twice swiped the wall and endured a pit miscommunication – the Finn had been elusively non-committal about the likelihood of him graduating to Nationwide competition just a week later, conceding only that 'we'll see'.

The publication of the Top Gear 300 entry list, however, has blown the 18-time grand prix-winner's cover, naming him as the driver of the #87 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota owned by Joe Nemechek, who has done a deal with Busch, whose own team is not in possession of a Nationwide licence. As to what the future holds beyond that, however, the 'Ice Man' is characteristically vague, save to admit that competing in some Sprint Cup races – NASCAR's uppermost tier – 'would be nice'.

“I don't have big plans,” he is quoted as having said by The Associated Press. “I don't have any plans for next year or anything of what I do. I'll see how it is, because I didn't have any expectations when I came here. It's a bit like when I went to rallying – I didn't have much expectation, I wanted to see how it is.

“It's the same story here. For sure, it's a different sport, a different type of racing than what we have in Europe. It's very popular here and maybe it looks easy, but it's not so easy to be fast. I'll try to do my best and we'll see how it goes and what the future will bring. There's not an awful lot of planning to be done, and I really don't want to hurry the situation. We go step-by-step and see what happens.

“If I completely suck here, there's probably no reason to come back. I mean, I don't know yet. Like I said, we go day-by-day and see how it goes, and what comes in the future, comes. Like I said, at the moment, I have no plans for next year, so it's too early to think about it.”

Erstwhile McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya has opined that in order to truly succeed across the Pond, Raikkonen needs to relocate there lock, stock and barrel, but that would engender a long-term NASCAR commitment – and judging by his recent admissions, it would seem that despite persistent denials, the 31-year-old is still not entirely convinced that he has fully turned his back on an F1 career that began back in 2001.

“Currently, I don't miss F1,” he is quoted as saying by The Examiner, having walked away from the top flight when he was prematurely released by Ferrari at the end of 2009. “I wanted to do different things and now have had a great opportunity to try NASCAR. I haven't said I will never go back to F1.”



Related Pictures

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Kimi Raikkonen`s primary sponsor for his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, food manufacturer Perky Jerky, unveils the livery that will be on his vehicle for his debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday May 20. [Picture credit: Perky Jerky PR]
Kimi Raikkonen finished 15th in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway [Picture credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the #15 Perky Jerky Toyota, stands with Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20 in Charlotte, N.C. [Picture credit: Streeter Lecka, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the #15 Perky Jerky Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20 in Charlotte, N.C. [Picture credit: Streeter Lecka, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Brian Scott. (Picture Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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NutBallRacer

May 24, 2011 2:08 PM

Its nice to be able to "try stuff". I wonder what it costs him. Does he buy his seats, or is his reputation still fresh enough to get him entre to the things he's trying. I still wonder about his value and committment required to provide that value to his sponsors/car owners. Actually, I admire his sporting spirit, and wish him well. I think he should stay away from F1 until they make an interesting formula, though.

JT2 - Unregistered

May 24, 2011 5:25 PM

His words are being twisted. He said he has no plans for next year. (same as this time last year)He said he did not miss F1 but when asked if he would go back he said never say never (he aid same this time last year. I would imagine it would all depend on what is offered to him but top seat in F1 after being away 2 yrs - doubt it.



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