Former F1 champion Jenson Button prepared for ‘problem’ of Cup Series
FOX NASCAR Insider
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jenson Button simply can’t retire from motorsports competitors. And the subsequent collection he’ll take his abilities: NASCAR Cup Series.
Button, the 2009 Formula 1 champion, has signed a three-race Cup deal to drive a automotive supported by Stewart-Haas Racing and fielded by Rick Ware Racing at Circuit of the Americas later this month, the Chicago Street Course in July and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway street course in August.
Some would possibly ask why he’s doing it. The 43-year-old Button has a straightforward reply.
“Why not?” Button instructed FOX Sports on Thursday afternoon. “This is so exciting for me. I’ve had the opportunity to race in some great categories around the world. … NASCAR is definitely something I’ve been interested in for a very long time.
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“Did I ever assume I’d drive a Cup automotive? Realistically, no. I actually needed to, however I understand how troublesome it’s to get into this class. It is an actual privilege for me.”
As a child, he watched “Days of Thunder” and all the time needed to attempt a inventory automotive.
“To really get the possibility to reside out that dream could be very cool,” Button said.
The COTA race March 26 will feature two former F1 champs in Button and Kimi Raikkonen, who will drive a third car for Trackhouse Racing. The lineup also will include road-racing star Jordan Taylor, who will substitute for the injured Chase Elliott (broken leg).
Taylor and Button have worked together the last couple months as Button will drive the Hendrick Motorsports/NASCAR “Garage 56” Next Gen car at Le Mans in June. Button, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and road-course star Mike Rockenfeller are the drivers for that entry while Taylor serves as driver coach and backup driver.
As part of that program, he has toured Hendrick’s facility. He now also has been to Stewart-Haas Racing’s shop.
“To see the amenities, it’s approach past what I anticipated,” Button said. “It actually is. I come from a background of Formula 1, the place … they’ve nice amenities. I didn’t anticipate that from stock-car racing, however they’re.
“They are really, really impressive.”
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Button gained 15 F1 races over a 17-year profession that led to 2017. He competed as a co-driver in sports-car endurance races in 2018-19 in addition to some main off-road endurance occasions.
But he has by no means pushed a inventory automotive apart from his testing of the modified Next Gen automotive that’s set to race at Le Mans. One of these assessments was at COTA. The Garage 56 automotive is a number of hundred kilos lighter and the brakes are totally different, permitting it to be extra nimble, however Button stated that helped him perceive the traits of a inventory automotive
“I keep in mind leaping within the automotive in Daytona and for the primary 5 laps, I used to be like, ‘What have I done? This is not for me,” Button said. “Then I did another five laps and I absolutely loved it.
“It’s not a straightforward automotive to drive. But it’s a lot enjoyable to drive.”
He understands he might have to use the bumper. Johnson has told him he will and have fun.
“He stated there are limitations of how laborious it’s best to faucet somebody,” Button said. “But I’m like, ‘I don’t want to hit anyone.’ I’m simply going to attempt to calm down into it. And hopefully everybody simply forgets that I’m there. And I can simply do my factor.”
Button has had a decades-long relationship with Mobil 1, which will sponsor his NASCAR effort. Because SHR already has four Cup cars (the NASCAR maximum), he will drive the RWR No. 15 Ford in those events.
He has experience at both COTA (five starts) and Indianapolis (seven starts) in Formula 1.
“It’s all the time a problem to attempt a brand new racing self-discipline, and the most effective factor you’ll be able to deliver to a brand new alternative like that is an open thoughts,” SHR co-owner Tony Stewart said in a news release. “Jenson has been doing that his total profession.
“Those F1 cars evolve every year, and Jenson always found a way to adapt. And when he got out of F1, he jumped into sports cars and won another championship. He’s even done off-road. There’s very little that he hasn’t experienced in a racecar. He’s new to NASCAR, but he’s not new to racing.”
This can be a stretch — however might Button be a candidate to switch SHR driver Kevin Harvick in 2024 at SHR?
“I’m under no illusion,” Button stated. “Racing on an oval is very different than on a road course. But I’ve never driven on an oval so I wouldn’t know. It looks very difficult, and it’s just a skill set I didn’t learn at the age of 6 while most of them have.
“I actually wish to attempt an oval. Testing first. Who is aware of what the longer term holds?”
The immediate future for Button is the three races he has set. What will be new for him as well is he has two young children under four years old who have not had the opportunity to see him race much.
“It’s the primary time they are going to get to see me race, which is so cool,” Button said, adding that it will be emotional. “And I’m actually, actually enthusiastic about that.”
And Button admitted he will likely be nervous, too.
“I all the time am after I attempt new issues since you’re stepping exterior of your consolation zone,” Button said. “And you are going be judged. Whatever. But greater than that, I all the time wish to do a very good job. I wish to get the most effective out myself.
“And I know it’s a challenge, but I will give it my all definitely.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent many years protecting motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @bobpockrass, and join the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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