Finishes back in the pack belie the speed shown by the ‘road course ringers’ racing NASCAR’s best at Circuit Of The Americas.
Formula One World Champions Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen, IMSA winner Jordan Taylor, and IndyCar driver Connor Daly all had one-off starts in the Cup Series on Sunday. Button’s 18th-place finish was best of the group, but Taylor and Raikkonen had strong showings throughout the race.
Taylor started the race fourth after a strong showing in qualifying. He was shuffled out of the top ten early by the aggressive start, but held on in the out-of-commission Chase Elliott‘s car. Pit strategy and the chaos at the end shuffled him back in the order further, though, and he leaves with a 24th-place finish.
“It was definitely wild” Taylor said of his first NASCAR experience. “I wouldn’t say I survived; I feel like I’m beat up pretty much. Every restart, you just get smashed in the front, rear, side. So yeah, it was pretty much just survival.”
“The guys knew I’d be a little bit more hesitant,” he acknowledged, “so they would take advantage of it. At the end, I got more aggressive and made our way almost back to the top-10. On the last restart, I don’t know who went down on the inside, but they were never going to make the corner and used us to stop themselves.”
To sum it up, Taylor said it was a “disappointing day. We had good pace, but we just got shuffled back every restart. Tough day.”
Kimi Raikkonen, conversely, climbed into the top ten late after starting back in the field in 22nd, but was also shuffled out back to 29th after being spun in the overtime aggression. This is his second start in the Next Gen car after an appearance at Watkins Glen, also driving Trackhouse’s PROJECT91 entry.
“I think it wasn’t too bad,” Kimi said. “We got unlucky with the incidents that happened. It was one of those things, unfortunately. Then there were no tires left. They kept coming, getting more restarts and more restarts, so I think after the spin I had, the tires were just done.”
“It’s a shame because when we were there, but then we restart, and just wrong place, wrong time,” he summed up the racing. “It was a case of trying to stay out of the issues in the first corners and every time. It looked like you’d be very good, then three corners later, somebody’s going the wrong direction. There’s a bit of mess and luck involved.”
Though Button finished highest, in 18th after starting behind Raikkonen in 24th, he wasn’t entirely happy with his day.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” the World Champion said. “First, it was terrible. I mean, I must’ve been last by the end of it. And I was just like, ‘Everyone: Go. I just need to drive and find a rhythm.’ I’ve never gone through a corner too wide, so often. And trying to place my car in the right place – I just got it wrong every time.”
“It was really difficult,” he added, “but towards the end, we made some good calls stopping and putting on fresh tires. I enjoyed the last three restarts – got good placement and good overtaking moves from the outside. Finished 18th after almost stopping because I had heat exhaustion. It was so hot, I thought I was going to faint in the car. So, I stopped twice for a minute.”
However, he acknowledged that “the team kept me calm, and it’s the reason why we got a good result in the end. So, I was happy.”
As for Connor Daly, driving for Floyd Mayweather’s The Money Team, he finished 36th after starting 35th due to a transmission issue on lap 16, the lowest finish of the road course ringers.