Kimi Raikkonen's NASCAR Debut a Solid Start for Former Formula One Champ

Jonathan HoweContributor IMay 20, 2011

Kimi Raikkonen making his NASCAR debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Kimi Raikkonen making his NASCAR debut at Charlotte Motor SpeedwayJared C. Tilton/Getty Images

On Friday night, the Iceman came to NASCAR. And he did not disappoint.

After rather unspectacular practice and qualifying sessions earlier in the day, Kimi Raikkonen showed off the talent that laid claim to the 2007 Formula One world championship to finish 15th in the caution-plagued North Carolina Education Lottery 200 won by Kyle Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Rough Start to the Night

Just five laps into the race, it looked like it would be a long night for the 31-year-old Finn when he scrubbed the wall coming off turn four. Then on the second restart, he was warned by NASCAR to refrain from passing before the start-finish line on restarts.

But Raikkonen settled in during one of the few long green flag runs early in the race and was able to move up the running order.

Then the cautions started to fly.

That’s when strategy and a little luck played to Kimi's advantage.

Raikkonen accidentally stayed out under caution while others pitted and found himself in sixth place at one point in the early stages of the race.

Later, just one lap before he was to pit under green on lap 51, Raikkonen's truck owner—and eventual race winner—Kyle Busch spun out exiting turn four bringing out a caution and providing Raikkonen the opportunity to pit under yellow and remain on the lead lap.

Record-Tying Number of Cautions

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful for Raikkonen—with the exception of dodging wrecked trucks.

A record-tying 10 cautions kept the field from getting strung out and actually worked to Kimi’s advantage. Spins by Timothy Peters, Ron Hornaday and Todd Bodine, and wrecks by Matt Crafton, Max Papis and Brendan Gaughan contributed the sheet metal carnage. But Raikkonen missed them all.

In the end, Raikkonen never lost the lead lap, had no penalties on pit road, made several green flag passes and finished his debut race in the top 15.

Not a bad start for someone who had never raced a stock car and flew in from Europe yesterday.