NASCAR: Veterans offer advice for Kimi Räikkönen
By AL PEARCE on 4/05/2011
Former team owner-driver and current NASCAR executive Brett Bodine is not worried about Kimi Räikkönen making a seamless move into the Camping World Truck Series after years in Formula One and now World Rally cars.
NASCAR star Kyle Busch on Saturday announced that the 2007 world champion will run a handful of oval-track Truck Series races for Busch's truck team this summer, but Bodine is more worried about Räikkönen's off-track adjustments than anything he might face in competition.
“I'll be curious to see how he handles this open atmosphere, where everything in the garage is pretty much out in the open for everybody to see,” Bodine said. “He's going to see a lot of things he's never seen, a lot of things he's going to have to learn to handle. He's not used to being so open, to having crewmen on other teams working on their truck right beside him, with everything out in the open, not in closed garages.
“And he's never been in a situation where the media is everywhere all the time, asking questions and taking pictures and asking for interviews. I heard he can be pretty cold with people [his nickname is the “Iceman”], so that's something he'll have to face. And he's never been anyplace where the fans are right down in the garage and on pit road and in the public areas. We'll all be interested to see how he adjusts to everything going on around him. This will be a whole new atmosphere for him.”
Juan Pablo Montoya made the transition--and it didn't seem especially difficult--when he came from F1 through CART into NASCAR in 2007.
“Juan isn't like Kimi, and he had the [Indy-car experience] to buffer his move from Formula One to over here,” Bodine said. “[CART] wasn't as open as we are over here, but it was a good transition to help him get ready for NASCAR after his time in Formula One.
“I think [Räikkönen will] be good [in his May 20 debut] at Charlotte because for trucks, that's like being at Talladega. You just run it wide-open all the time. And being in a Rally car is good training for this, more than F1. Rally-car drivers don't worry about aero; they're all about car control and the feel of that car on whatever surface they happen to be on at the time. He's got great car control, so he'll be just fine out here.”
Four-time champion Jeff Gordon said he is looking forward to Räikkönen's first experience with the traveling NASCAR media.
“I can't wait for him to do an interview because the one-word answers you guys will get from those questions are going to be hilarious,” he said. “I can tell you, he's not going to say much. You ask a question and you might get a one-word answer--and that'll be it. He doesn't give you much to go on. I might come in here for that first session.”
Gordon is probably NASCAR's biggest F1 fan. As such, he recognizes that Räikkönen has the talent to eventually figure out oval-track racing and be successful if he pursues it.
“I admire Kimi [because] he has a lot of talent,” Gordon said. “I can't believe [he's coming over] just like I couldn't believe it when Juan Pablo made his announcement. It says a lot about NASCAR that somebody like him is considering coming here, and I admire him for wanting to start truck racing and not just jump into a Cup car.
“Obviously, the word is out to the best drivers in the world [that] if you think you're just going to come in here and jump in a Cup car and be competitive, you're kidding yourself. And I think that's pretty cool about our sport, that we're drawing this international group of talent. That's awesome. I hope to one day see him in the Cup series.”
Someone asked what advice Gordon would offer if Räikkönen came to him for words of wisdom.
“There's not a lot you can tell them because they know how to get into different cars and adapt,” he said. “But this is a series with vehicles that are far more challenging than people realize, especially when you've come out of high-downforce cars. I think the rally car he's been driving gives him more experience or gets him better prepared for this than any of his F1 cars. The last thing you want is to get one of these cars feeling like an F1 car, or even hope that maybe one day you can, because you never will.
“So I'd tell him to be patient and stay in the best equipment he can and go out there and follow the guys that are going fast. Learn the best lines and the braking points at each of the tracks. That would be the quickest way I think to learn and adapt and be competitive.”
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