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Raikkonen tests Sprint Cup, may pass on Nationwide

24 May 2011

It's very hard to keep up with Kimi Raikkonen - not just on the track, but on the whole budding NASCAR career trajectory.

Despite earlier reports that Raikkonen is on the entry list of this weekend's Top Gear 300 Nationwide Series race, it's emerged that he has not yet actually committed to driving Joe Nemechek's #87 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota at Charlotte Motor Speedway after all.

Instead came news that Kimi's spent Tuesday at Virginia International Raceway, testing the Robby Gordon Motorsports #7 Sprint Cup car on the road course there.

"Kimi Raikkonen testing the #7 at VIR today while Robby Gordon is out west," reported the PlanetRobby Twitter feed from the team. "This is Raikkonens first ever laps in a cup car. And he gets to do it in a RGM road course car."

Asked by a fan for lap times, the succinct answer came back: "They will not be published." However, some eyewitness accounts suggest that the nose of the #7 was rather the worse for wear after Raikkonen had run only half a dozen laps, and the team Twitter account suggested that this might be the case: "Kimi got off course & nose did what Carls did at Charlotte in grass," it reported.

The news of Raikkonen's Sprint Cup run comes after earlier speculation that Raikkonen might make the jump to NASCAR's top series next month on a road course - the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. VIR is often used as a testing ground for drivers to prepare for Sonoma.

Raikkonen restated his hope that he might be able to "run some Cup races" last week, just before his Truck Series début at Charlotte last Friday, and making his début on a road course would obviously make sense for someone as experienced on F1 circuits as Raikkonen is. In a similar spirit, Penske Racing have just announced that they will be running Jacques Villeneuve in this year's Nationwide road course events at Road America and Montreal.

According to Todd Hirschfeld, who has been managing Raikkonen's foray into the US motorsport scene this month, today's Sprint Cup test opportunity worked out well for both parties as Robby Gordon himself was otherwise committed in Mexico City for a sponsor meeting. The team got a free, high-calibre test driver while Raikkonen got a chance to try out the Car of Tomorrow first hand.

Gordon is scheduled to be back in Virginia to run the #7 on Wednesday. He tweeted: "Testing at ViR tomorrow, Iceman in car today. Trying to give him some SPEED!"

Talking to ESPN, Hirschfeld also cast doubt on the earlier apparent confirmations that Raikkonen was to run in the Top Gear 300 at the weekend.

"I've seen the story," he said, "But he has not told me personally whether he'll do it or not." Just because Raikkonen's name was included on the entry list did not mean that the decision had been made, he continued. "There's a car and team ready to go, but Kimi himself has not yet committed.

"It's up to Kimi whether he stays tomorrow [for more Sprint Cup runs], heads back to Finland or stays to run the Nationwide race Saturday at Charlotte."

"He's taking this whole experience day by day," Hirschfeld told ESPN. "This is the truth: Kimi does what Kimi wants to do."


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