Kyle Busch believes Kimi Raikkonen's rallying experience can help him have a smoother transition into NASCAR.
On Saturday Kyle Busch Motorsports announced it will run Raikkonen in a limited schedule in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, starting in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he is set to run as team-mate to multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup race winner and former Nationwide Series champion Kyle Busch.
Unlike most open-wheel drivers who have moved to NASCAR straight from either Formula 1 or IndyCars, Raikkonen comes with experience in a low-downforce, low-grip, yet high-speed environment from the World Rally Championship. When asked if he believed such a background could help the former F1 World Champion in NASCAR, Busch agreed this could be the case.
"I think it will help him because he's gone from something that's been the ultimate amount of downforce and grip to something that is essentially no downforce and no grip. You're in the air sometimes," said Busch.
"I think that will be something that he's had the best of both worlds. NASCAR is the best of both worlds. We do have a lot of downforce, but yet we are still slipping and sliding all over the place. You've got to figure out how to handle all of that."
Busch admits that having Charlotte as his first NASCAR race will be a tall order for Raikkonen's debut, but says trucks drive almost full throttle around the 1.5-mile venue. This is thanks to a tapered spacer that fits between the carburetor and the intake manifold of the engine, which brings down horsepower and thus top speeds, plus the track offers plenty of grip. The driver-owner is already targeting a top-15 finish for Raikkonen as an achievable goal for his debut.
"I think Charlotte is a difficult track," said Busch. "It's certainly not easy. It's a little bit easier in the trucks than what you'd think. You're essentially close to wide-open [throttle] running around there, so you do have to find some throttle modulation in the long run and when tyres wear out... I think it will be fine for him to learn on and get his feet wet.
"The track has a lot of grip, so it's not like you're going to a place like a Kansas or an Atlanta that's got no grip and you're sliding everywhere and you don't know how much to slide and all that. Charlotte is a place where you relatively want to keep your vehicle going straight."
Busch said although for now only the Charlotte race is set, the team may add up to another two to four races more to Raikkonen's limited schedule. He is expected to drive a second truck at Charlotte for KBM, but may drive Busch's No. 18 truck at other events.
The 25-year-old also denied that Foster Gillett had any involvement in the deal with Raikkonen whatsoever, stating the contract had been signed with the driver himself. Raikkonen will be bringing sponsors, but Busch denied Red Bull being "mentioned" as one of them.
Raikkonen will be testing for Busch's team on Monday and Tuesday at Gresham Motorsports Park.