Kimi Raikkonen is set to move a step up in his NASCAR transition next week by making his Nationwide Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 31-year-old ranked 15th on his first NASCAR Camping World Truck series outing, finishing on the lead lap while surviving a race that saw plenty of incidents involving many of the series' top drivers.
Raikkonen said that while he enjoyed the race he would have liked to finish higher up on his debut. However, he declared himself pleased with the progress he was able to make from practice earlier in the day at a track he had not seen before Friday.
Although he refused to confirm he would run in next week's Nationwide Series event at Charlotte, plans were already under way for him to compete in NASCAR's second-tier series before his outing on Friday. Speaking after his victory in the Truck Series race, Kyle Busch said he has a Nationwide Toyota Camry at his team's shop ready for Raikkonen to run, although he would not reveal the team it came from.
Kyle Busch Motorsports has not run a Nationwide Series race before, but sources revealed that the team has entered an agreement with series regular NEMCO Motorsports, which fields the No. 87 Toyota for team owner Joe Nemechek on a regular basis. The car has the start guaranteed in next week's event thanks to its current status in the Nationwide owners' standings, saving Raikkonen the need to qualify on speed as he had to for his NASCAR Trucks debut.
Busch anticipated Raikkonen could have a swift transition to the Nationwide car, especially if Goodyear changes the tire specification for next week as he believes the one it ran in the Trucks was too hard and lacked grip.
"Unfortunately, we did not have the handling the way he [Kimi Raikkonen] needed it to be today," said Kyle Busch following the Truck Series event. "He did a nice job from what I understand – I haven't heard, but we might have to put a [new] right side on [the truck]. That's all right; you'll have that.
"Next week for the Nationwide Series race with the correct tire, it should be a better-feeling car. He should feel a little more grip and should be able to drive it a little bit harder. The engines are a little bit the same and the cars go through the air a little bit better.
"Traffic will be kind of the same as what he felt tonight. Tonight was a good learning experience and hopefully he learned enough today that will help him for next week and we'll try to make the transition a lot easier for him as best we can."
Raikkonen will benefit from having a second run at the same track in less than a week, despite driving a different car. Following his NASCAR debut, the Finn said his second race would be much easier after learning some of the competition nuances in the Trucks race.
"For sure it's much easier once you do one race because you learn from restarts the way you should go and stuff like that," said Raikkonen.
The World Rally Championship competes in Argentina next week, but the event is not part of his limited schedule.