F1's Trulli, Salo to test with Michael Waltrip Racing

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

Michael Waltrip Racing will test Jarno Trulli and Mika Salo at International Speedway in Lakeland, Fl., the week prior to the NASCAR season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway. Trulli, 35, currently drives for Toyota in Formula One. He finished second last week in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and is currently eighth in the World Championship. Trulli's sole F1 win came at the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix in 2004 while driving for Renault. After Trulli completes the F1 season on November 1 at Abu Dhabi, he will be fitted for his seat at MWR then join the organization to observe for the final three races. Trulli dropped in at Michigan Speedway last June to watch the Sprint Cup race. With the current uncertainty surrounding Toyota's future in F1, it appears that Trulli is considering stock cars as a viable option. Salo, 42, competed in F1 from 1994 to 2002 and posted two podium finishes. In 2007, Salo won the GT2 class of the American Le Mans Series. He currently competes for a team that MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman has an interest in Europe. According to Cal Wells, executive vice president of MWR, Salo "has wanted to do this for a long time." "We're serious about the test — we're not going to jack around," Wells said. "It's a real deal. But I'm not sure what it's going to turn into. It depends on what is real. It depends on what we can afford to do. We don't have a sponsor here saying, 'Let's go get a Finnish driver'. But, I think after a proper evaluation if he can go to Finnish companies that would support him in the U.S., then that would be wonderful. So, Rob is the catalyst for that.
"There's a series of relationships there — the connection again, came through (Kauffman) and other folks. We've already set the date. It's not like we're searching for the next racer. It's a low key thing. We're not trying to make a big deal out of it." The news comes a day after Red Horse Racing, which fields trucks in NASCAR Camping World Series, announced a test involving former F1 Renault driver Nelson Piquet, Jr. and IRL IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira at Little Rock in Rockingham, N.C. on October 12. Currently, Juan Pablo Montoya is the only Formula One racer running full time in NASCAR. 1997 Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has run 11 NASCAR races since 2007 (two in Cup, two in Nationwide and seven in trucks). Steve Hallam, director of competition for MWR and former lead engineer at McLaren, understands the challenges of transferring from open wheel to stock cars. "As you well know, this is not an easy sport," Hallam said. "But from time to time an opportunity arises for both them and us to take a look at them. It's very premature to get carried away with this because it takes a long time for both parties to know where they are in terms of performance."
Tagged: Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Waltrip, Jacques Villeneuve

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