Report: Raikkonen NASCAR-bound this year?

Former Formula 1 champion and current WRC driver Kimi Raikkonen is reported to be planning to drive in NASCAR’s Truck series this year before moving onto to Nationwide and Sprint Cup.

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 world champion and current World Rally Championship driver, is reported to be moving to NASCAR later this year with a brand new team.

The Finnish Turun Sanomat newspaper quotes Raikkonen as saying “I am excited about getting to know the world of NASCAR. I have been following it for a long time.

“I am 100 per cent sure it will be fun and challenging,” the 31-year-old is reported as saying. “I know, it’s a very tough and open top-racing series. I just love the American spirit of racing. It feels just great to get involved with that. Obviously, it will be very challenging and great fun for me.”

Picture courtesy CrashNet/CrashPA

According to the reports, Raikkonen would debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in a new team to be called ICE1, inspired by Raikkonen’s own nickname of “the Iceman”. The team would be set up by Raikkonen in partnership with Foster Gillett, who worked with Richard Petty Motorsports (previously known as Gillett Evernham Motorsports) up until last year. RPM may be involved in supplying technical support to the team, although negotiations are still pending and no dates have been confirmed.

If the Truck venture were a success, it’s said that Raikkonen would then look at moving into the Nationwide Series and ultimately into the top Sprint Cup series. Raikkonen’s involvement as a former F1 world champion would certainly generate an increase in international interest in NASCAR if it were to happen.

It appears that Raikkonen would continue his part-time eight-race WRC schedule in 2011, fitting in competing in the Truck series as WRC events allowed. He moved to WRC after failing to get a top F1 seat following his exit from Ferrari at the end of 2009, and is currently running a Citroën DS3 WRC car under the banner of ICE 1 Racing.

Raikkonen enjoyed a steady rookie year in WRC in 2010 but his best result was fifth place in Turkey and he finished 10th overall, leading to reports at the end of the year that he was disenchanted with the series and was considering a return to F1 with Renault. While that subsequently came to nothing, it raised questions as to how committed Raikkonen was to staying in WRC and whether he was looking for challenges elsewhere – including the United States.

However, all of today’s reports about a switch to NASCAR have come out of the blue and have caught many motor sports experts by surprise. With the beginning of April so close, many are wondering whether this is an April Fool’s Day prank that broke early and which may be missing something in translation as it spreads like wildfire around the world via motorsports and social media sites.

As of time of writing, Raikkonen’s own website had no coverage of the story and its news section has not been updated since before Raikkonen’s participation in the Rally of Portugal at the weekend.

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