When Red Bull driver and two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom visited the Red Bull Racing NASCAR team in 2008, he admitted he “dreamed” of one day driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car. Two years later, the Swede is getting his chance as the team continues to evaluate its driving options following last week's announcement that Brian Vickers, regular driver of its No. 83 Toyota, is out for the season as he undergoes continuing treatment for blood clots.
The 31-year-old Ekstrom will test the No. 83 Camry on Tuesday at Virginia International Raceway. Playing down – for now at least – the prospects of Ekstrom racing for the team, RBR said the test is to provide support for the upcoming Sprint Cup road race at Sonoma, Calif.
“With Brian Vickers sidelined for the rest of the season, we needed a road racing expert to help prepare the No. 83 for Sonoma,” said Jay Frye, RBR vice president and general manager. “We appreciate Mattias' willingness to help out and we look forward to his insight.”
Ekstrom, a Red Bull-backed driver for the past nine years, heads to the States after claiming his first victory this season in yesterday's second round of the DTM Championship in Valencia, Spain. The Audi factory driver currently sits second in the DTM standings.
In addition to his success in the Germany-based touring car series – only twice in nine seasons has he finished outside the top five – Ekstrom has proven his versatility and class in other motorsports disciplines. He's an active rally racer and three times has won the individual title at the year-end Race of Champions.
“It's no secret that the NASCAR series fascinates me,” Ekstrom said. “It's been a long-harbored dream of mine to drive such a car.”