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Raikkonen's promising NASCAR Cup debut comes to an unfortunate end

Kimi Raikkonen finally made his NASCAR Cup debut at Watkins Glen, but his afternoon ended early after getting punted out.

Kimi Raikkonen has not ruled out a return to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series after his debut was ended early at Watkins Glen. The Finn, who retired from Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season, was driving for Trackhouse Racing's Project 91 entry, which team owner Justin Marks set up to invite drivers from other motorsport series to race in the Cup. Raikkonen had qualified his Chevrolet Camaro 27th on the grid, before the race was delayed by nearly two hours due to heavy rain at the New York state circuit. The veteran of 349 Grand Prix starts was in contention for a top 10 finish, before being the unwitting victim in a collision at the bus-stop chicane.

Raikkonen's day comes to early end

Raikkonen had made his way up to run in the top 20 when the field started to make the switch from the wet to slick tyres around Lap 16 of the 90 tour event. However, the #91 was not one of the first cars to make the switch, meaning he fell out of the top 30 as the field cycled through. This strategy would eventually have Raikkonen on the cusp of the top 10, running as high as eighth place after a restart. On Lap 44, Raikkonen's race came to an end after Austin Dillon spun at Turn 5/6/7/8 complex. He had been nerfed by Ross Chastain, with Loris Hezemans pushed wide and into Raikkonen who was minding his own business on the outside. The only place left for Raikkonen to go was into the tyre barrier, and a trip to the in-field care centre, as is mandatory in NASCAR if you can't get back to the pits in the race car. As NASCAR drivers aren't credited with DNFs, Raikkonen was officially placed 37th.


Kimi Räikkönen's day is over at @WGI after this incident on Lap 46. pic.twitter.com/TwfEBjlrRQ — NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 21, 2022

Raikkonen up for NASCAR return

Although this was a one-off event for Raikkonen, he was not in a rush to rule out appearing again in the Cup Series. The next road course race is the Charlotte 'Roval' in the Playoffs in October, with the 21-time Grand Prix winner saying, "We'll see, I don't know", when asked after the race if he'd return. "I felt more confidence all the time and had some good battles, [so] it's a shame," he explained to broadcaster NBC Sports . "The car felt like it had a lot of speed in there, but that's how it goes sometimes." Raikkonen had previously competed in the XFinity and Truck Series of NASCAR during his F1 hiatus in 2010/11. He raced at Charlotte for Kyle Busch Motorsports back in 2011, taking a 15th-place finish in Trucks and 27th in what was then known as the Nationwide Series. The race at Watkins Glen was won by defending series champion Kyle Larson, who moved teammate Chase Elliott on a late restart. Elliott was not best pleased, but did claim the regular season championship ahead of the final race in that portion of the season this weekend at Daytona. Raikkonen's two teammates, Chastain and Daniel Suarez, finished 21st and fifth respectively, both already locked into the Playoffs.

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