Trackhouse Racing adds NASCAR car for Cup Series races

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FILE - Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland speaks during a news conference at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 28, 2019. Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One world champion, will drive the No. 91 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International road course for Trackhouse Racing on Aug. 21, 2022. Raikkonen retired from Formula One last year. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, file)

FILE – Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland speaks during a news conference at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 28, 2019. Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One world champion, will drive the No. 91 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International road course for Trackhouse Racing on Aug. 21, 2022. Raikkonen retired from Formula One last year. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, file)

AP

Trackhouse Racing this week announced its plans to field a part-time NASCAR Cup Series entry this year for international drivers, unveiling the initiative as PROJECT91.

The first driver of the entry will be 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who will race NASCAR’s road course event at Watkins Glen on Aug. 21, Trackhouse Racing announced Thursday.

Raikkonen is a renowned driver from Finland with 21 wins and 103 podiums in his F1 career. He retired last year after two decades in the series, closing a chapter on a career in which he drove for top teams such as McLaren, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Raikkonen has competed in NASCAR events in the past, running Xfinity and Truck Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2011, but his debut with Trackhouse will mark his first start at the top level of stock car racing.

He’ll drive the No. 91 Chevrolet, which will be piloted by other international drivers in the future as PROJECT91 expands, according to a team release. Raikkonen’s Watkins Glen entry is the only planned race this year for the No. 91 car, but more races for the car are expected next season with additional drivers. Trackhouse owner Justin Marks said Raikkonen was the first driver he had in mind for PROJECT91.

“I wasn’t looking to race again, but Justin came to my home in Switzerland and convinced me how serious he was about putting together a top-notch program,” Raikkonen said in a statement. “This will be fun, but it’s something I will take very seriously. I know how competitive the NASCAR Cup Series is and it will be a big challenge.”

Trackhouse fields two full-time Cup cars, the No. 99 Chevrolet driven by Daniel Suárez and the No. 1 Chevrolet driven by Ross Chastain. The organization, co-owned by international music icon Pitbull, is in its second season and already has two wins with the No. 1 team.

With PROJECT91, Trackhouse is aiming to “become the destination for global superstars from other racing disciplines eager to compete in America’s most popular form of motorsports,” the team said.

“PROJECT91’s mission is to activate the intersection point of NASCAR racing and global motorsport culture,” Marks said in a statement on Wednesday. “I truly believe the (Next Gen) car represents an opportunity for NASCAR to enter the global professional motorsport conversation. We now have a race vehicle with international technological relevance where world-class drivers from other disciplines can compete at NASCAR’s highest level without the steep learning curve that the previous generation cars required.”

Marks has frequently talked about how the Next Gen car, NASCAR’s latest iteration of race car that differs vastly from prior generations from a mechanical and production standpoint, inspired his move to team ownership. Trackhouse ran its first season with Suárez, a native of Mexico, as the sole driver in 2021 and added the No. 1 car driven by Chastain for a full season this year. Marks has previously said that his desire was to further expand Trackhouse, with the latest move reflecting that desire as well as the aim to enhance NASCAR’s global reach.

Trackhouse director of performance Darian Grubb, a former championship- and race-winning crew chief, will lead Raikkonen’s team, which will be based out of their shop in Concord.

This story was originally published May 24, 2022 12:26 PM.

NASCAR and Charlotte FC beat reporter Alex Andrejev joined The Observer in January 2020 following an internship at The Washington Post. She is a two-time APSE award winner for her NASCAR beat coverage and National Motorsports Press Association award winner. She is the host of McClatchy’s podcast “Payback” about women’s soccer.
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