Kimi Raikkonen to race in NASCAR again!

Kimi Raikkonen will drive the No. 91 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International this August in his NASCAR Cup Series debut.

He last competed in NASCAR in the 2011 Truck and Xfinity races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 87 Perky Jerky Toyota, and Michael Annett, driver of the No. 62 Pilot Travel Centers/Flying J Toyota, race in turn four during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 2007 Formula 1 World Champion is to be the first driver to race as part of Trackhouse Racing’s PROJECT91 program, the program they announced on Tuesday that aims to expand their international reach by fielding the No. 91 car for various international superstar racing car drivers from other motorsport disciplines.

Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks said: “Kimi Raikkonen is the driver I first had in mind when we created PROJECT91. Kimi is a world-renowned driver with a tremendous amount of talent and fan following.”

Raikkonen, nicknamed The Iceman, said: “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. 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.”

This will be Raikkonen’s first NASCAR road course race, as back in 2011 he competed on the 1.5 mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval for Kyle Busch Motorsports where he finished a very respectable 15th place in the Truck race, and also drove for NEMCO Motorsports, who KBM partnered with, in the Xfinity race finishing 27th.

Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota, races Jason White, driver of the No. 23 Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20, 2011. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Co-team owner Justin Marks said: “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.”

Darian Grubb, winner of 23 Cup races and the 2011 champion crew chief, will captain Raikkonen’s No. 91 team for the Watkins Glen Cup Race. Trackhouse Racing plan to bring Raikkonen to the race shop in Concord, North Carolina for preparations.

The Watkins Glen Cup Race is the only race Trackhouse’s PROJECT91 program plans to enter in 2022. Marks expects more races in 2023 with more drivers taking part.

Featured Image: Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20th, 2011. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Watermelons were smashed: Ross Chastain’s week as a first-time NASCAR Cup winner

Watermelon farmer turned NASCAR Cup racer Ross Chastain smashed out his first career win at Circuit of the Americas in final lap brawl.

On the hottest day of the year just outside of Austin, Texas, the NASCAR race at COTA came down to an overtime finish between Ross Chastain, road-course ringer AJ Allmendinger and Hendrick’s Alex Bowman.

On the final restart, it was Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick who led the field to green with Ross Chastain right beside him in second, but Chastain used the chrome horn and power moved by Reddick in the S’s to retake the lead.

Reddick would fall back to sixth while Chastain would take the white flag and would lead the break away with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman in tandem.

Ross Chastain racing witth AJ Allmendinger right behind him (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Allmendinger closed up to Chastain in the turn 12 heavy braking zone and would continue to fill his mirrors up in turns 13 and 14 before sticking his Camaro up the inside of Chastain in turn 15, consequently pushing Chastain wide after he tried to cover him off.

Chastain would get passed by Bowman too after he dived past him on the inside of 18 while Chastain returned the favour to Allmendinger going into the penultimate corner, using him as a braking block. Allmendinger’s car stepped out on him and flew into Bowman who was alongside him. Allmendinger ended up backwards in the sand while Bowman had to take evasive action to avoid him. Chastain went on to take the checkered flag.

The highly anticipated ritual-like smashing of the watermelon was performed by Chastain on the straightaway from on top of his ONX Homes/iFly Camaro. Chastain was so thrilled he ate the juicy fruit while being interviewed, saying to FOX, “it’s never tasted sweeter.”

Ross Chastain, celebrates further by eating the smashed watermelon (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

It was also Trackhouse Racing’s first Cup win and was quite the birthday present for co-team owner Justin Marks.

Celebrations continued throughout the first half of the week with Chastain’s own Melon Man Brand, a grassroots lifestyle organisation uniting all watermelon lovers, putting up pre-orders for a most appropriate T-shirt on Tuesday to mark the iconic moment.

Co-team owner Mr. Worldwide also put out a congratulatory post to his driver and team.

It was not the end of Ross’s ‘victory lap’ either. On FOX’s own NASCAR Race Hub, Chastain taught Jimmie Johnson’s former crew chief Chad Knaus the arts of watermelon smashing.

Back at the race shop on Tuesday, Team Trackhouse were all bought a celebratory breakfast. Watermelon may or may not have been present.

Back to Sunday’s race, other drivers had found to be fast throughout the race, most notably Team Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suárez, who after starting second would take the lead away from polesitter Ryan Blaney on the opening lap. Suárez would go onto win the first stage of the race. He had a not so fun experience on the restart however, finding himself spinning around while in a five-wide mess in turn one. Denny Hamlin, in desperate need of points, would sacrifice track position and stay out to win stage two.

Daniel Suárez spinning out in turn one (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Ford drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric would also be at the front throughout much of the race but not when Cindric brought out the first non-scheduled caution of the day for spinning coming out of the turn 10 kink, with Christopher Bell narrowly avoiding him by a whisker. The race would go to overtime when Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano came together in the turn one sandpit.

Bowman, Bell, Elliott, and Reddick made up the top five finishing order.

Featured Image: Ross Chastain, celebrates after winning at COTA (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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