Trackhouse Racing team owner Justin Marks says that Kimi Raikkonen’s NASCAR racing comeback with his Project 91 car is “kind of his ride until he tells me otherwise”.
Raikkonen made his Cup Series debut in Trackhouse’s #91 entry at Watkins Glen earlier this year, creating a huge buzz as the former F1 champion made his return to NASCAR after making previous starts in the lower-tier Xfinity and Truck series.
The Finn ran has high as eighth position in the pitstop cycle until he crashed out following a restart, injuring his wrist after a collision sent his car into a tirewall. Raikkonen is thought unlikely to commit to a series of multiple races, and when asked whether he would return in future, Kimi replied: “We’ll see.”
Marks says that Raikkonen is welcome back in that car in 2023, as he seeks to expand the program and enter the car in extra events.
“You know, I really enjoyed my time with Kimi and his family,” said Marks. “I thought he did an amazing job. I think without the wreck, the way the strategy was playing [out] and how he was learning through the race was going to put us in a position for an outside shot at a top 10, certainly a top 15 finish, which would have been a really nice day.
“I sort of operate under the assumption that it’s kind of his ride until he tells me otherwise, and we’re going to have those discussions here after the season is over, and I think we’ll have a really good idea where Project91 is at by the end of the year.”
Marks attended the United States Grand Prix at COTA a few weeks ago, following on from attending the Miami GP earlier in the year, as he seeks new opportunities to develop this program.
When asked by Motorsport.com about his COTA F1 visit, and whether he had a ‘shopping list’ of drivers to target, he replied: “Obviously with Kimi coming and racing with us this year, Trackhouse became something that everybody over there was aware of. It’s sort of creating and developing a couple of relationships there.
“But also Formula 1 is in a very interesting time right now. They’re a very aspirational brand, the way they promote their personalities and the platform that they’ve got to the world is pretty-cutting edge. I like to go to those events and just see how they’re engaging with fans, how they’re activating and promoting with their partners.
“I was there on Thursday, which was important for me to go when there wasn’t cars on the racetrack, when they were doing all the other things, just to get inspired and to get educated and to meet some people. I went to Miami for the same thing this year and might be in Abu Dhabi in a couple weeks to do the same thing.
“Yeah, there is an element of shopping for sure, but it was also a bit of an educational exercise for myself.”
Kimi Raikkonen, TrackHouse Racing, Recogni Chevrolet Camaro, Ty Dillon, Petty GMS Motorsports, Allegiant Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Jasen Vinlove / NKP / Motorsport Images
When asked about the likelihood for expanding Project 91, Marks believes there is huge potential now he has proved the concept with Raikkonen.
“Ultimately I’d love to do multiple events,” he said. “I’d love to do three, four, five races with that program. It’s important to bring something to the racetrack that’s unique and unprecedented, and that’s kind of where we look.
“It’s not just Formula 1. It’s what different disciplines and backgrounds and personalities and celebrity we can bring to the series. So we’ll continue to have those conversations.
“And I’m actually really excited about the future of that sport, of that program, because NASCAR is something everybody in the world knows about.
“Everybody would love to try. It’s incredible racing. Now we’ve got a car that I think people that haven’t driven a NASCAR before can get in and get up to speed pretty quickly. So we’ll see where it goes. But I’m excited about that program.
“There’s a lot of outreach and a lot of conversations happening right now. Obviously, we have to get it funded, so we’re out in the market talking to companies that would be interested in being a part of it. That’s ultimately going to determine how many races we do.
“But [there are] a lot of really great conversations with all around the world happening.”