Race Weekend Central

Tearing Apart the Trucks: Kimi Raikkonen Set to Debut

If you were to take a look at Kimi “Iceman” Raikkonen‘s racing resume, you might wonder what more he needs to do to prove himself in the world of racing. But now, the Finnish driver hopes to add NASCAR to his list of achievements as he’s set to make his Camping World Truck Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway tonight (May 20).

At just three years old, Raikkonen knew he was born to race and it didn’t take long to start tallying his success. In 2001, he signed on with the Sauber Forumla 1 team and scored four points-paying finishes. Fast forward to 2007 when Raikkonen finally won the World Drivers’ Championship before he left Ferrari at the end of the 2009 season. He spent some time in rally racing and won all six stages in the Rallye Vosgien in France, in late 2010.

Now, Raikkonen’s self-owned team ICE1RACING has partnered with Kyle Busch Motorsports in an effort to give NASCAR a try. Early last month, the former F1 champion signed on to run a limited schedule this season and team owner Kyle Busch is excited about the newest addition to their team.

“We are honored that Kimi Raikkonen, a former Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion and proven winner, has chosen to start his career in NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Busch said. “Adding one of the most talented drivers in the world is a continuation of building a team of proven winners and champions at KBM. I look forward to assisting in Kimi’s transition to NASCAR as both an owner and teammate.”

And of course Raikkonen echoed his team owner’s sentiments.

“I am really excited to have the opportunity to start my venture into NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Raikkonen said. “Kyle is one of the best in NASCAR and being able to draw on his knowledge will be a valuable asset as I make my transition to a new form of racing. He has put together an experienced team that builds fast race trucks. I look forward to being a part of a team that has proven to be a winner on and off the track.”

Coming into tonight’s race, Perky Jerky has signed on as primary sponsor for the No. 15 Toyota Raikkonen will drive. Born from an energy drink spilled on some beef jerky four years ago, the young company has already been involved in NASCAR as the official and exclusive jerky of the Daytona 500 and offers the “jerk bar,” a traveling sample station that has been seen at many races across the country.

“Perky Jerky might only be two years old, but we have one of the best racecar drivers in the world to represent our brand in America’s greatest race series,” Perky Jerky Founder and Chairman Brian Levin said. “We look forward to seeing Kimi take the green flag on Friday for Perky Jerky and we’ll be cheering him along as will our Perky Jerky fans across the country and around the world.”

Raikkonen becomes the seventh former F1 driver to give the NASCAR Truck Series a try, joining Narain Karthikeyan, Max Papis, Eliseo Salazer, Scott Speed, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve. Of those six drivers who have given NASCAR a shot, Speed is the only one to break through to victory lane, a feat he completed at Dover in 2008 in just his sixth career start. Raikkonen will try to best the highest debuting finish of an F1 driver – 13th by Karthikeyan last season.

And if Raikkonen can take a few lessons from his boss, he’ll be on the road to success in the Truck Series… and beyond if the opportunity arises. But in the meantime, the most important thing is simply experience. Sure he has plenty of racing experience in his background, but NASCAR is a completely different beast than what he’s used to.

KBM Signs Josh Richards

If Raikkonen’s debut this weekend wasn’t enough, Kyle Busch Motorsports has entered an agreement to bring another new face to the Truck Series later this season. Two-time World of Outlaws Late Model champion Josh Richards will make his Truck Series debut when the series takes to Kentucky Speedway in July.

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“I couldn’t be happier with this opportunity with Joy Mining Machinery and Kyle Busch Motorsports. The partnership with Joy Mining Machinery and Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Richards said. “The partnership with Joy Mining Machinery and KBM has great potential both on and off the track, and getting the chance to enter NASCAR with one of the best teams in the sport is a dream come true.”

“KBM’s mission to win matches the approach I have when it comes to racing, and whether it’s on dirt or pavement, that mentality is the same. I’m really looking forward to getting in a KBM Toyota Tundra at our first race under the Joy Mining Machinery banner at Kentucky Speedway in July.”

Team owner Kyle Busch echoed Richards’s sentiments and looks forward to the new partnership.

“We are honored that Josh Richards and Joy Mining Machinery have chosen to partner with Kyle Busch Motorsports for their first endeavor into NASCAR,” Busch said. “Knowing that an up-an-coming driver and a highly successful global company trust KBM to assist in their transition to NASCAR reinforces the fact that in just a short period of time we have established ourselves as one of the most respected teams in the sport. We look forward to providing Josh Richards and Joy Mining Machinery with all the tools necessary to develop from NASCAR rookies into household names.”

Founded more than 90 years ago, Joy Mining Machinery is a “global leader in the development, manufacture, distribution and service of underground mining machinery for the extraction of coal and other bedded materials.” With more than 80,000 employees, the company looks forward to their involvement in NASCAR.

“Joy Mining Machinery is proud to partner with driver Josh Richards and Kyle Busch Motorsports to participate in the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” Vice President Keith Richardson said. “There has always been a strong connection between the men and women who work in the mining industry and racing, and none stronger than with NASCAR. We also believe there is a natural fit between a race team’s drive to win and our employees’ drive to be the very best mining equipment supplier in the world.”

Richards will also continue to run for the WoO championship this season as he works toward his third consecutive championship.

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