Raikkonen to NASCAR & More on Helmut Marko, Christian Horner & Jenson Button

Barry RosenbergContributor IIApril 3, 2011

Have fun with the Good Ol' Boys, Kimi.
Have fun with the Good Ol' Boys, Kimi.Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Kimi Raikkonen will be going in circles. That is to say he's going to NASCAR.

This observer expects him to be fighting at the front in short order. He's to be driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports in some Camping World Truck Series races during 2011. He will be teammate to team owner/driver Kyle Busch in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 20th.

In announcing  the acquisition of Raikkonen for the Busch team, General Manager Rick Ren said, “As NASCAR looks to expand [its] fan base and generate further interest in certain demographics, having a former Formula 1 Champion with worldwide appeal is a huge deal not just for KBM, but for the sport as a whole.”

Kimi said of his new challenge, “I am really excited to have the opportunity to start my venture into NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Kyle is one of the best in NASCAR, and being able to draw on his knowledge will be a valuable asset as I make my transition to a new form of racing. He has put together an experienced team that builds fast race trucks. I look forward to being a part of a team that has proven to be a winner on and off the race track."

This observer is dubious about the spontaneity of  Kimi's statement.  It just doesn't sound like him, and I think it would take something more like naked wing-walking on a Stealth bomber to make The Ice Man "really excited."

Kimi will be driving a Toyota Tundra, and there are no announcements yet as to Raikkonen's sponsorship nor in which of the scheduled races he will participate.

Helmut "The Mouth" Marko, “advisor” to Red Bull is so proud of his team's double championship-winning season last year that he is subjecting “gentleman” Mark Webber to severe scrutiny.

Webber wasn't able to match the scorching performance of his young teammate, Sebastien Vettel, in the sister Red Bull car. Obviously, if Mark isn't able to shake his bad luck, which is sometimes self-generated, and get up front with Sebastien, the team will go shopping for a replacement. Undoubtedly, Hamilton will be high up on its list.

Christian Horner, team boss at Red Bull Racing, is his usual, humble self. He is aware that his team is unlikely to lead the field throughout the season as clearly as it did in the season opener in Australia. Most observers expect Ferrari to advance in long strides, while McLaren have already shown their ability to gain ground with their impressive improvement from practice to race day in Melbourne.

The Red Bull cars did not use KERS in Australia, and Sebastien Vettel was able to take the win without the spurts of 80 additional horsepower the system generates. Strategically, Melbourne's track design would not maximize the benefits of KERS, but other tracks will, and the Bulls will carry KERS where it counts.

Jenson Button, 2009 world driving champion when he was a Brawn GP driver and now drives for McLaren, is confident that the impressive improvement his team made between practice and qualifying in Melbourne will continue to run near the front.

Meanwhile, Brawn GP has become Team Mercedes and its drivers, Nico Rosberg and seven-time world champion driver Michael Schumacher are struggling with under-performing cars.

Button sees the Malaysian track as a familiar battleground that he rather enjoys, and expects to do well there in his McLaren.  At the same time, he fears the wear and tear on drivers and cars alike from the blistering heat and potential tropical rainstorms that are typical in Sepang.

This observer is also wondering how the Pirelli tires will fare in the various destructive conditions offered by Sepang.

For my Canadian Readers, TSN broadcast time for the Sepang race are:

Qualifying, Saturday morning, April 9, 3:55 AM e/t - 12:55 AM p/t (Friday night)

The Race, Sunday morning, April 10, 3:55 AM e/t - 12:55 AM p/t (Saturday night)