If Kimi Raikkonen is really serious about launching his NASCAR career by driving in the Camping World Truck Series, according to a story that broke yesterday, he should have a word with Jacques Villeneuve.
Villeneuve was the first former Formula One World Champion to try to make the switch and he did it the right way.
He showed up at Las Vegas toward the end of the 2007 season in a white truck that had few, if any, sponsor decals on it and he wore the baggiest, plain white, driving suit you’ve ever seen.
Whether it was Villeneuve himself who made that call, or his former manager Craig Pollack, it was a stroke of genius.
He basically deflated his own ego in order to be accepted by the NASCAR fraternity who – you can bet – were waiting en masse to teach this ex-F1 driver (a World Champion, no less) who was boss.
They didn’t have to. Jacques basically said, with his blandess, that: "I’m a rookie here, boys, and I’m ready to learn. I want you guys to show me how it’s done."
If he’d showed up with an entourage, a truck full of signage and a uniform that told the world he was one shit-hot race car driver, it would have been over for him before it started.
Somebody would have put him into the wall on the warmup lap!
So that’s what Raikkonen’s got to do, if he wants to be accepted. Arrive low-key, and keep it that way.
As Jacques has shown time and again when he’s raced in NASCAR, he is one of the very best race drivers in the world. Raikkonen is, as well.
He’s just got to take his time showing it.
According to reports from Europe, Raikkonen is coming to NASCAR with Foster Gillett, son of George Gillett, who recently owned the Montreal Canadiens, half of the Liverpool football team and last year’s edition of Richard Petty Motorsport.
The plan, apparently, is for Raikkonen to completel his contract to drive in the World Rally Championship this year, try some truck series races and then move into the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series going forward.
"I'm really looking forward to get there to familiarize to the world of NASCAR," Raikkonen was quoted as saying by the Turun Sanomat newspaper.
"I have been following it for a long time. I know it's a very tough and open, top racing series. I just love the American spirit of racing. It feels just great to get involved with that. Obviously, it will be very challenging and great fun for me."
A decision on which truck to rent is reportedly near.
Which is a surprise to Ray Evernham, a former partner of George Gillett's who's suing for $19 million that he says he was never paid for his share of Richard Petty Motorsport.
Evernham said, in so many words, that he can't understand how people who owed so much money could walk away from the sport, only to turn around again a year or two later and try to waltz right back in.