Kimi R??ikk??nen’s NASCAR Trucks debut up close

Guest articles

Kimi R??ikk??nen, NASCAR truck, Charlotte Superspeedway, 2011

Lewis Hamilton had his first taste of NASCAR at Watkins Glen last week.

But his former rival Kimi R??ikk??nen has taken things a step further, starting a couple of races in NASCAR’s junior categories.

Jamey Price was at Charlotte Superspeedway last month to watch R??ikk??nen’s first race in a NASCAR Truck.

I have long been a Kimi R??ikk??nen fan. It?s no secret that the Iceman is notoriously self absorbed, quiet and rarely cracks a smile in anyone?s direction.

Much to my surprise, that Kimi Raikkonen that we all know from his Formula One years seems to have been pushed aside and in his place seems a genuinely humble, smiling and even an engaging character.

I was contracted to cover R??ikk??nen?s first attempt at NASCAR Truck racing at Charlotte Motorspeedway on May 20th as a photographer.

It was a first for me as well in that despite being born and raised in Charlotte North Carolina, I had never covered a NASCAR race at any level. I?ve been to a few, but never been paid to cover one with credentials.

My job was to cover R??ikk??nen?s every waking move from morning until night which made my job easier in that my eyes needed to be focused on only one man instead of covering the race as a whole.

Perky Jerky

Kimi R??ikk??nen, NASCAR truck, Charlotte Superspeedway, 2011

After setting up in the media room and getting all the camera gear dialled-in and lenses all cleaned up, I walked toward the garage area where his crew were feverishly cleaning his car before the first practice session.

R??ikk??nen arrived in the garage after attending the rookie driver meeting and set about preparing himself to get in the car. They cranked up the engine and off he went to run his first laps of practice. It was immediately clear that he was off the pace and reports from the garage were that the car was ‘loose’ – oversteering.

I was standing on pit road shooting looking toward the start/finish line and lap after lap I noticed that cars he had been running with the previous time around were pulling away from him.

He came back to the garage spoke with the crew chief and made some changes to the car and went back out. You could tell he was frustrated with how the car was handling. He finished the first session 30th of 38 drivers with a time of 31.265s.

Second practice was not much better for the world champion. I had relocated to shoot from the outside wall at the exit of turn four where the cars come straight at you at around 300kph (almost 190mph).

Having never photographed NASCAR before, I can tell you it was quite exhilarating sitting inches away from the wall as the trucks roared past. I made some nice images of Kimi pushing the car around the turn and onto the front straight but there was little he could do to make an impression in the time sheets. He finished 30th again with a best time of 31.471s.

30th again

Kimi R??ikk??nen, NASCAR truck, Charlotte Superspeedway, 2011

As the drivers readied for qualifying later in the day, I took advantage of the Sprint Cup practice to find some new vantage points to shoot R??ikk??nen?s qualifying run. I liked the angle from the bottom of turn four shooting up the track.

Not having a radio scanner or any way of knowing where R??ikk??nen would be in the randomly drawn qualifying order, I was more or less forced to shoot every truck as they qualified waiting to see the black and orange #15 Perky Jerky car that R??ikk??nen was driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

When he finally appeared, I snapped as many as I could and tried to capture as many different angles and styles as one can shoot with two laps and one lens. R??ikk??nen?s magic number for the day seemed to be 30th, since again he landed towards the back of the field posting the slowest lap time of his day.

I took advantage of the down-time between qualifying and the race to send some of the images off while waiting for the pre-race activities to begin. Raikkonen and the other truck drivers were introduced in front of the crowd about an hour before the race began

While wandering around looking for interesting things to shoot, I happened to glance up and see R??ikk??nen having a light hearted pre-race chat with former Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jnr.

The two seemed to be engaged and genuinely happy to see each other. Who knows what they were talking about but it was a short-lived conversation because it was time to introduce the world champion to the crowd.

Raikkonen?s name was called and he walked onto the stage with shades and Red Bull cap on his head, gave a quick wave and walked back toward the car which was sitting on pit road with his crew.

“Who’s that?” “Some Formula 1 champion…”

Kimi R??ikk??nen, NASCAR truck, Charlotte Superspeedway, 2011

I am quite certain that NASCAR Truck racing has never had so much media attention. I remember very distinctly standing in the scrum with all the other media trying to get some interesting photos of R??ikk??nen before the race when I heard another truck driver walk by with a woman beside him.

She asked “what the heck is going on here?” The driver replied “It?s some Formula 1 world champion who’s trying NASCAR out for fun.”

I?m sure R??ikk??nen is used to the media, but many of the truck drivers live in relative obscurity and apart from their small contingent of fans, would never have a gaggle of photographers, TV crews and journalists all pushing and shoving to capture them before a race. This was a new experience for all involved.

Since I had a spot picked out on the start finish stretch about 300 yards down from the finish line, I had to leave the pit activities early and head toward my spot before they closed the track down and made it harder to get around.

Shooting wide open at f2.8 on a 300mm lens on a Nikon D3s, I shot the start of the race. R??ikk??nen got shuffled to the back early on. He was clearly uncomfortable with running in such a tight pack but as anyone who saw the race can attest, he quickly picked up his game.

I think I can speak for R??ikk??nen when I say we will both remember the race not for the racing itself, but for the number of cautions. It was absurd. There seemed to be a new incident every five minutes. It made for very frustrating work and very dull racing.

After shooting the first 50 laps, I walked back toward the pit lane to try and get one of the pit stops. After missing his first stop due to a miscommunication, I wasn?t sure how many chances I would get but I did manage to get one of his stops.

The rest of the race, I photographed his push through the field from the pit wall near his crew. He had definitely picked up the groove and was able to push a bit harder and actually look a bit like a racing driver again. I saw him pull some daring manoeuvres and was genuinely pleased that he finished the race a solid 15th.

Though his practice pace had been slow, he had been able to make the most of his racing ability and had certainly made an impression on the NASCAR community. It appears he will be running in the NASCAR Nationwide race this coming Friday and recently tested a Sprint Cup car in Virginia. Perhaps R??ikk??nen really is thinking of a permanent move to stock car racing. In any event, I was pleased his race ended well and that he appeared to enjoy the experience. I know I did.

Thanks to Sutton Images, Charlotte Motorspeedway and the photographers on site who made it a very enjoyable day in welcoming myself and R??ikk??nen to the NASCAR community with open arms.

This is a guest article by Jamey Price. Jamey is a sports photojournalist whose work has been published in a range of sporting publications worldwide. More of his photos can be found at www.jameypricephoto.com.

If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

Guest articles

Images ?? Jamey Price

Advert | Go Ad-free

59 comments on Kimi R??ikk??nen’s NASCAR Trucks debut up close

  1. maxthecat12 said on 20th June 2011, 16:07

    Maybe he’s thinking about getting fat so is looking to switch to NASCAR as Montoya did :P

    Seriously though, i get the impression he wants to find a series that he can turn up to, get his adrenaline rush and then go home with the minimal amount of input or effort from him.

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2011, 16:22

    I really like that head on shot Jamey. And a very nice write up of the event.
    Who knows, some of us on this side of the pond might actually start watching F1 NASCAR if Kimi moved over.

    Although I hope he does only guest appearances for now and sticks with WRC until he gets some genuinly good results there.

    • Adrian Morse said on 20th June 2011, 21:16

      Actually, I’m hoping Kimi will move back to single-seater racing. If not in F1, then maybe in Indy; I’d like to see that. As far as rallying is concerned, if Kimi would have it in him to challenge for the win, it should have shown by now, but every time I look up some WRC results, I find him languishing in the back.

      • Mike said on 21st June 2011, 6:01

        For what it’s worth, he’s a champion in F1. And at least able to compete in both NASCAR and WRC.

        That in the modern world is no mean feat.

      • Veronica said on 21st June 2011, 13:21

        Err No, not even the great Sebastian Loeb was winning rallies in his second season of rallying. Rallying has a lot to do with experience. Kimi is just showing how difficult rallying actually is, although he is doing a good job at it, especially this year. It is a shame that rally drivers are so underrated, they are some of the best.

      • anonymous said on 13th July 2013, 17:39

        I’m a little late to the game, but no, rallying is a very different affair from any other racing. In other motorsports, you can simply follow your own instincts and do what feels best – including sidecar motorcycling. In rallying, however, you need to shut off some part of your own instincts and not only just blindly trust but also fully follow the notes the co-driver reads you. It’s very difficult to do – especially when driving on the very edge, which would be the top drivers on the WRC.

  3. BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2011, 16:26

    When you think of it, its really nice he finished 15th, with the car number 15! Now if he would have had car nr. 30 …

  4. Tango said on 20th June 2011, 16:38

    He has already put some weight on (according to the pic. Now that must show his dedication to becoming a real Nascar driver?

    • Tango said on 20th June 2011, 16:48

      Oh and I am sorry not to have noted Jamey : this was a very interesting read. I am very jealous : a f2.8 300 mm, (whistles in admiration and vents frustration, envy and anger :D)

  5. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 20th June 2011, 17:11

    Shame that NASCAR trucks are anything but photogenic! Nice article though

  6. George (@george) said on 20th June 2011, 18:12

    NASCAR have the best sponsors, can you imagine an F1 car with PERKY JERKY and CAMPING WORLD on them?

    For some reason I quite like the look of those trucks, probably too much iracing for me.

  7. HounslowBusGarage said on 20th June 2011, 18:17

    Very nic head-on shot of the truck, great article too.

  8. alelanza (@alelanza) said on 20th June 2011, 18:31

    Cool article, can we get more like this?

  9. Wait_for_me said on 20th June 2011, 19:31

    It’s such a shame. A qualify driver deciding to drive crap…

  10. Chalky (@chalky) said on 20th June 2011, 21:00

    Nice article. I actually quite like the trucks. I mean, not all F1 cars are pretty are they.

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 20th June 2011, 21:50

    I didn’t realise he managed to do so well, well done Kimi! He just had a good weekend in the WRC too.

    I really hope he stays in the WRC, I enjoy him there, I really do. However, the guy is clearly a born racer so whatever he does i’ll be sure to follow.

  12. William Wilgus said on 20th June 2011, 22:33

    What does this have to do with F1?

  13. A-Safieldin (@) said on 21st June 2011, 0:12

    Honestly he’s in it for the money I doubt its as exciting as F1 or WRC. I saw this NASCAR driver on MTV Cribs, guys loaded. It’s a shame, I really was hoping Kimi would go to rallying and make everyone else look stupid.

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 21st June 2011, 0:26

      How on earth can you say “Honestly…” ? That’s just your opinion. He may well be in it for the money, don’t we all chase the income we can get? I don’t see anything wrong with that. What’s he supposed to do, become a pop star or something, would that be ok?

      Seriously though this kind of truck racing is actually really tough and Kimi has a helluva lot to learn to get to the front of the pack. It’s oval racing, it’s very different from road racing and requires a completely different set of skills to be successful.

      It may not be to everyone’s taste but neither is F1.

    • Wesley said on 22nd June 2011, 0:04

      Kimi is not in it for the money,he is a pure racer.Nascar suits him better I think….although I would love to see him try Indy.Say what you want about Kimi but,the man is a hardcore racer through and through.(personality has nothing to do with how fast you can drive)

  14. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 21st June 2011, 3:46

    I want to see Kimi in Moto GP with Rossi his team-mate,how cool will that be.

  15. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 8:57

    Speaking of Raikkonen’s extra-curricular activities, I found some great footage of him on the New Loutraki power stage of the Rally Acropolis this weekend.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.