Raikkonen prepping for Truck debut
Kimi Raikkonen has not been sitting idle since it was announced on April 2 that he would compete in the No. 15 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra in Friday’s N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
After the 31-year-old former Formula One champion performed a two-day test last month at Gresham Motorsports Park followed by a half-day test Rockingham, KBM officials felt confident that Raikkonen would be ready to compete in the Camping World Truck Series.
“He did a tremendous job,” said crew chief Eric Phillips. “It took him an hour or two at Gresham to get up to speed but when we got to Rockingham, after four laps he was faster than when we’d been there testing with Brian (Ickler) or Taylor (Malsam) last year. So me and Rick (KBM General Manager) were really impressed.”
During last month’s tests, the team worked with chassis adjustments, various shock packages and air pressure changes as the driver acclimated to the truck first on the half-mile track and then at the 1.017-mile speedway at the Rock.
“It was a lot of fun, I really had no expectations or anything to compare it to beforehand but at the end of the day, I am really looking forward to the first race,” said Raikkonen in a team release. “It seems like KBM is a top team and I am excited to work with them.”
KBM also sent Raikkonen additional materials, including videos of earlier races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, to expedite his learning curve in a truck.
“I believe we also sent him a few in-car cameras so he can watch and get used to listening how throttle control was, how much you’re on the gas, how to race people and sometimes what happens when you’re side by side with guys,” Kyle Busch said. “I think I won the truck race there last year and the year before (Ron) Hornaday and I battled it out and we ended up spinning or something. He’ll get a good view of what to expect ... with some in-car camera stuff.
“When he gets back to the States, he’ll go over the NASCAR R&D Center and sit down with those guys and get an explanation of the drivers’ meeting -- the long version of the drivers meeting, the one that tells you all about double file, passing the pace on the wave around, the long version so he can get an idea of how everything works. That’s pretty much it.”
While it was the hope that Raikkonen would visit the NASCAR R&D Center, his schedule might not permit it. NASCAR senior director of communications for competition Kerry Tharp said the sanctioning body was simply extending an invitation and there was nothing required of the driver before the race.
Although there are 43 entries for the truck race and only 36 positions, Busch said driving the truck “is pretty simple, like anything else.” Busch should know. He won the race from the pole last year in his own equipment. It was Busch’s third win and third pole in a truck at Charlotte.
“As far as the truck goes, it’s like any of the other trucks that we have,” Busch said. “We had one in the stable and we’ve been working on it for two months now, probably, ever since we’ve known. We’ve been fine-tuning on it and getting ready along with my truck for Charlotte.”