NASCAR Cup Series
Former F1 champion Jenson Button ready for 'challenge' of Cup Series
NASCAR Cup Series

Former F1 champion Jenson Button ready for 'challenge' of Cup Series

Updated Mar. 10, 2023 3:58 p.m. ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jenson Button just can’t retire from motorsports competition. And now, he's taking his talents to the NASCAR Cup Series.

Button, the 2009 Formula 1 champion, has signed a three-race Cup deal to drive a car supported by Stewart-Haas Racing and fielded by Rick Ware Racing at Circuit of the Americas later this month, the Chicago Street Course in July and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in August.

Some might ask why he is doing it. The 43-year-old Button has an easy answer.

"Why not?" Button told FOX Sports on Thursday. "This is so exciting for me. I’ve had the opportunity to race in some great categories around the world. ... NASCAR is definitely something I’ve been interested in for a very long time.


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"Did I ever think I’d drive a Cup car? Realistically, no. I really wanted to, but I know how difficult it is to get into this category. It is a real privilege for me."

As a kid, he watched "Days of Thunder" and always wanted to try a stock car.

"To actually get the chance to live out that dream is very cool," Button said.

Jenson Button on racing Cup events

Jenson Button explains why he is doing three Cup races this year: "Why not?"

The COTA race March 26 will feature two former F1 champs in Button and Kimi Raikkonen, who will drive a third car for Trackhouse Racing. The lineup also will include road-racing star Jordan Taylor, who will substitute for the injured Chase Elliott (broken leg).

Taylor and Button have worked together the past couple months as Button will drive the Hendrick Motorsports/NASCAR "Garage 56" Next Gen car at Le Mans in June. Button, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and road-course star Mike Rockenfeller are the drivers for that entry while Taylor serves as driver-coach and backup driver.

As part of that program, he has toured Hendrick’s facility. He now also has been to Stewart-Haas Racing’s shop.

"To see the facilities, it’s way beyond what I expected," Button said. "It really is. I come from a background of Formula 1, where ... they have great facilities. I didn’t expect that from stock-car racing, but they are.

"They are really, really impressive."

Button won 15 F1 races over a 17-year career that ended in 2017. He competed as a co-driver in sports-car endurance races in 2018-19 as well as some major off-road endurance events. 

But he has never driven a stock car except for his testing of the modified Next Gen car that is set to race at Le Mans. One of those tests was at COTA. The Garage 56 car is several hundred pounds lighter and the brakes are different, allowing it to be more nimble, but Button said that helped him understand the characteristics of a stock car.

"I remember jumping in the car in Daytona, and for the first five laps I was like, ‘What have I done? This is not for me,'" Button said. "Then I did another five laps and I absolutely loved it.

"It’s not an easy car to drive. But it’s so much fun to drive."

He understands he might have to use the bumper. Johnson has told him he will and to have fun with it.

"He said there are limitations of how hard you should tap someone," Button said. "But I'm like, ‘I don't want to hit anyone.’ I'm just going to try and relax into it. And hopefully everyone just forgets that I'm there. And I can just do my thing."

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Button has had a decades-long relationship with Mobil 1, which will sponsor his NASCAR effort. Because SHR already has four Cup cars (the NASCAR maximum), he will drive the RWR No. 15 Ford in those events.

He has experience at both COTA (five starts) and Indianapolis (seven starts) in Formula 1.

"It’s always a challenge to try a new racing discipline, and the best thing you can bring to a new opportunity like this is an open mind," SHR co-owner Tony Stewart said in a news release. "Jenson has been doing that his entire career.

"Those F1 cars evolve every year, and Jenson always found a way to adapt. And when he got out of F1, he jumped into sports cars and won another championship. He’s even done off-road. There’s very little that he hasn’t experienced in a race car. He’s new to NASCAR, but he’s not new to racing."

This would be a stretch — but could Button be a candidate to replace retiring SHR driver Kevin Harvick in 2024?

"I’m under no illusion," Button said. "Racing on an oval is very different than on a road course. But I’ve never driven on an oval so I wouldn’t know. It looks very difficult, and it’s just a skill set I didn’t learn at the age of 6 while most of them have.

"I really would like to try an oval. Testing first. Who knows what the future holds?"

The immediate future for Button is the three races he has set. What will also be new for him is that his two young children, both under 4 years old, will be watching. 

"It’s the first time they're going to get to see me race, which is so cool," Button said, adding that it will be emotional. "And I'm really, really excited about that."

And Button admitted he will be nervous, too.

"I always am when I try new things because you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone," he said. "And you're going to be judged. Whatever. But more than that, I always want to do a good job. I want to get the best out myself.

"I know it's a challenge, but I will give it my all definitely."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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