The 2007 Formula One World Champion will drive for Trackhouse in the August 21 road race at Watkins Glen (NY) International as a teammate of Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain.
The Finn’s appearance is part of Trackhouse’s Project 91 initiative which seeks to expand NASCAR’s reach by introducing talented international racing drivers to the Cup Series.
“I think the speed, the race gear and the adaptation to the car won’t be an issue at all,” Marks said. “The way he was prepared when he first showed up in America – not just the last 24 hours – he was asking about the #1 car penalty at Michigan, he had questions about the short steps and how to work the strategy upside down on road course.
“He really did a lot of work and preparation and that doesn’t surprise me. That’s what it takes to be as successful as he’s been doing for so long in Formula 1.”
The race at The Glen marks Raikkonen’s first outing in a motorsport event since retiring from F1 last December with his final appearance for Alfa Romeo at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
To prepare for next weekend’s race, Raikkonen took his entire family to the United States for several weeks.
During that time, he performed simulator work, participated in iRacing events, took part in pit stop tests at the workshop and took part in his “Select Driver Orientation Test” at Virginia International Raceway on Thursday. in a Next Gen car.
Raikkonen, 42, has also undertaken numerous individual studies – which leaves Marks confident he should know by next weekend.
“From a speed, preparation and knowledge point of view, I think he’ll be up to it,” Marks explained. “Where the challenge will be to make sure he understands racing from a procedural point of view, that he understands the rules.
“We have prepared a document for him which shows pictures from a perspective of the pit entrance and the pit light, where the (timing) lines are and all that stuff. That’s where he has the steepest learning curve, is not going through too many pits, not stopping too soon, not going off the line before the start line/ from arrival to departure, not to accelerate on pit road.
“A penalty can take you a whole day. That’s where the bulk of the work will be and that’s where we’re focusing a lot of our attention. From the way it showed up ready to get in the car, I have high expectations.
“I think he’ll shoot ass.”
Photo by: Project91
Marks, who co-owns Trackhouse with Grammy-winning rapper Pitbull, believes the Next Gen car has helped lower the barrier of entry for drivers interested in competing in the Cup Series.
“I have known for a long time that there is significant global interest among the world’s elite motorsport drivers to compete in a NASCAR race,” Marks said. “It’s a unique series. People in Europe and around the world see NASCAR as this giant form of motorsport in America and have an interest in trying that.
“But it was difficult to break through and it was difficult to succeed because the car (until now) required such a unique and exclusive driving style that the barrier was basically high.
Marks said to launch the Project 91 initiative they would need someone “globally relevant” to launch it and felt the time was right for Raikkonen.
“Here’s a guy who’s been racing F1 full time for 20 years, he’s been to America before and raced NASCAR races so I knew the interest was there and we had some great mutual friends so there was a immediate confidence,” Marks said.
“I think he thought about it and there were unfinished things in 2011 when he raced before. The idea was to do a Cup race and he never had the chance. I would say that the stars have aligned pretty well.
Raikkonen competed in an Xfinity Series race and a Truck Series race in 2011 with Kyle Busch Motorsports during his F1 sabbatical.
He also tested a Coupe car at VIR before, driving a Dodge for Robby Gordon Motorsports in 2011, but the test ended early when he drove off and tore his nose on some grass wet.