Two years ago, Red Bull racer and two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekström had a dream. He wanted more than anything to try his hand at driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup race car.
“It’s no secret that the NASCAR series fascinates me,” Ekström said. “It’s been a long-harbored dream of mine to drive such a car.”
This week, Ekström’s dream came true. The 31-year-old driver from Sweden jumped behind the wheel of the No. 83 Red Bull Cup car—currently devoid of its usual driver, Brian Vickers, who is out for the rest of the season battling blood clots—and gave it a test spin at Virginia International Raceway.
“With Brian Vickers sidelined for the rest of the season, we needed a road-racing expert to help prepare the No. 83 for Sonoma,” Jay Frye, Red Bull Racing’s vice president and general manager, said. “We appreciate Mattia’s willingness to help out, and we look forward to his insight.”
While a stranger to the NASCAR circuit, Ekström has quite an impressive racing resume. He has driven for the past nine years for team Red Bull and currently sits second in the DTM standings.
Ekström is also fresh off his victory in his most recent race in Valencia, Spain, his first win of the 2010 season. Ekström not only excels in the German-based touring series, but also is an accomplished rally racer, winning the individual title three times in the Race of Champions.
But it has been Ekström’s long-standing dream to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car to add to his impressive resume. And drive he did, providing invaluable feedback for the No. 83 team as it prepares for the upcoming road race.
“I was really surprised how the car drove,” Ekström said after the test at VIR. “Everyone told me that it would be very special, and it was quite nice.”
“The first hour of the test I was fighting the car a lot just getting used to the power, the weight, and the fact that the car has little aero,” Ekström continued. “A few hours into the test I felt a lot more comfortable in the car.”
“I came into this test not having any experience in these types of cars and also have never worked with the No. 83 team before,” Ekström said. “It was nice to see how well we all worked together.”
Ekström proclaimed that he had “a really good test”, enjoying his time in the seat of his stock car. His debriefing about the car’s handling on the road course in southern Virginia will be critical as the No. 83 Red Bull team prepares for the upcoming June road course event at Infineon Raceway.
“I really enjoyed my first Sprint Cup test,” Ekström said. “I am glad to have had this opportunity.”
Photo Credit: Xavier Lanier