Formula 1 Champion Raikkonen Ready To Roll In Charlotte
One of the most anticipated debuts in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history happens this week when 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen buckles up for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Raikkonen is just the second F1 champion to compete in the series – Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 champ, was first – and first former titleholder to race in NASCAR at the 1.5-mile speedway.
The race also marks the first time three former F1 competitors have been in a NASCAR Camping World Truck field. Raikkonen joins Nelson Piquet Jr. and Max Papis.
Piquet, a current Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, is the only one of six F1 expatriates to score a top-10 finish in his debut. Piquet finished sixth in 2010 at Daytona.
Here is how the other five have fared in their debuts:
• Narain Karthikeyan, 13thth (2010); Papis, 29th (2008); Eliseo Salazar, 17th (1997); Scott Speed, 27th (2008); Villeneuve, 21st (2007).
Speed is the only ex-F1 driver to win a series race – at Dover International Speedway in 2008.
Team owner Kyle Busch said, “We’ve sent him a few videos the past couple of years of truck racing at Charlotte. He’ll get a good view of what to expect with the in-car stuff, listening to throttle control, how much you’re on the gas and how to race people.” Click here for audio and video of Busch’s remarks on Raikkonen.
Trading Places: Crafton Takes Lead From ThorSport Teammate
ThorSport Racing continues to be the dominant team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as Matt Crafton regained the points lead from teammate Johnny Sauter with a third-place finish last week at Dover.
Crafton has topped the standings three times while Sauter, winner at Martinsville Speedway, was the leader twice. Crafton, however, has little breathing room entering the seventh of 25 scheduled races, leading Sauter by five points. The current top five are separated by 13 points.
Crafton’s only series victory came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2008 – 75 races ago. Crafton may be difficult to dislodge from his points lead. He has completed every lap in eight previous starts in Charlotte, with seven top 10s and an average finish of 7.1.
Busch Closes In On Century Mark
Kyle Busch can take one more step toward the seemingly inevitable this week as his personal countdown to 100 NASCAR national series wins continues.
Busch, a three-time winner of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, posted his third NASCAR Camping World Truck victory of 2011 at Dover and matched Mark Martin’s 96-win record for drivers with a victory in each of NASCAR’s three national series. Busch’s latest win was No. 22 for crew chief Eric Phillips. He stands first among active winning crew chiefs and third on the all-time list, five behind Kyle Busch Motorsports general manager Rick Ren. Another national series victory would tie Busch with Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip for third on the all-time list, at 97.
Cole Whitt became the second consecutive rookie to post a runner-up finish, battling Busch down to the wire at Dover. Piquet finished second to Busch at Nashville Superspeedway last month. Whitt holds third in overall standings – the best by any rookie after six races. Travis Kvapil was fourth in 2001. “I’ll tell you what -- Cole Whitt has something going on,” said Busch. “He’s probably got some good talent there and it looked like he did a really nice job.” … Two drivers celebrate milestone starts at Charlotte this week. Timothy Peters will compete in his 100th series race. Friday’s race marks start No. 50 for Ricky Carmichael. … Two drivers will pull double duty this weekend. Austin Dillon and James Buescher will race at Charlotte then fly to Iowa Speedway for Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series John Deere Dealers 250 presented by Pioneer. Dillon won Iowa’s truck race in 2010. … Media voting continues to identify the top NASCAR Camping World Truck moments leading up to the series’ 400th race June 4 at Kansas Speedway. Click here to cast your vote.