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Raikkonen finds Nationwide tough going

Unfortunately Kimi then got a speeding penalty after his first green flag pit stop on lap 142, which meant a drive-thru that would drop him off the lead lap.

Shortly afterwards, Raikkonen managed to run over some debris on the track (the front splitter of Jeremy Clements' car, which had just fallen off the #51) that lodged under the front of his own car and required him to come in under green for the pit crew to wrench it out. That put him even further behind and damaged the front splitter of his own car, which meant that the car's handling and speed was even further compromised - but at least the pit crew got the full water bottle to him this time.

By the end of the night, Raikkonen had also scrapped half the paint off the right hand side of the #87 by getting too close to the outside wall on a number of occasions. By the final laps he was clearly not trying too hard, just circulating and trying to stay out of the way, encouraged by the pit crew to simply bring it home.

"I was just driving around to finish the race ... just trying to survive through the corners, and it's not so much fun," he admitted afterwards.

"At the beginning I thought we had a good car ... I could overtake on the restarts, and it felt really good when it turned. But it turned out to be really bad, the handling. It felt I had to stop in the corner, just pushing all the time," he said. "Over halfway the car was tight, and I hit the wall three times. Then it just didn't work at all."

"The front-running guys [Kyle, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick] are saying the exact same thing," his crew chief Rick Ren agreed. "These things just do not handle very well."

Had the whole gruelling experience put him off NASCAR for a good while to some? While it might not have been a dream start in Nationwide, most observers felt that actually he'd gone pretty well for someone who hadn't even seen the inside of one of these cars until the previous day's practice. He'd made it to the end, and 27th place was still two in front of his car owner Joe Nemechek who finished in 29th place after engine problems. (Full results are available here.)

"Kimi did a great job," said Rick Ren. "I call it a success. The results don't really show how good he really did. If you look at the finishing order, guys in 10th-12th - we ran ahead of them a good lick of the day. I think it was all positive. No negatives out of it ... There was no doubt he was a top 15 guy again."

As ever, Kimi was non-committal about his NASCAR plans. "Now I'll go back to Europe, and do a few rallies, and see what happens," he said. "I don't know when I will be back. I have a rally in Greece and some other rallies."

"It's up to him to decide if he wants to come do this again," said Rick Ren, who is also general manager for Kyle Busch Motorsports. "Hopefully, we did our part, and it was a pleasant experience for him." However, he added it was unlikely that KBM could or would be involved in putting together a Sprint Cup outing for Raikkonen at Sonoma, if that should be Kimi's next step.




Related Pictures

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Former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen talks with car owner and fellow driver Joe Nemechek during practice as Raikkonen prepares to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Raikkonen`s fastest lap in the No. 87 was his 19th lap with a time of 31.241 seconds. [Picture credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]
The Roush Fenway Racing trio of Matt Kenseth in the #16, Carl Edwards in the #60 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #6 all sported similar paint schemes and finished first, second and fourth respectively in the Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. [Picture credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]
Kimi Raikkonen was impressive in in the #87 in his NASCAR Nationwide Series début, running on the lead lap until a pit road speeding penalty and debris causing damage to his front splitter. Raikkonen finished 27th, four laps down. [Picture credit: NASCAR]
Kimi Raikkonen waits on the grid before qualifying the #87 Perky Jerky Toyota. Raikkonen made his NASCAR Nationwide Series début in the Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway [Picture credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
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)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, 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/Getty Images)
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)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after 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, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #18 ARRIS Toyota, lead the field on the first lap of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, races to the finish line to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Plaid Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Daniel Suarez, driver of the #51 ARRIS Toyota, and John H. Nemechek, driver of the #8 Chevrolet, lead a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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Marybeth - Unregistered

May 29, 2011 7:27 PM

After the race, ALL of announcers unamiously said that if Kimi wants it, he has a career in Nascar. They specifically pointed to his car handling ability, how quickly he adapts to the car, the track & the drivers around him, & his car control. That he got in there and mixed it up with other drivers, managed to hang on to the car & survived. :)

Dice - Unregistered

May 29, 2011 9:12 PM

At 100 laps in, he was on the same lap as the leaders & running in 13th-16th, & those are the same guys running up front in Cup. Only after hitting the debris on track did he start to slide down. I can't wait to see him in a cup car! Is there a driver signed for the #4 Red Bull car when Kasey goes to Hendrick?



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