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Raikkonen already thinking beyond Truck Series

April 07, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kimi Raikkonen's first Camping World Truck Series start is still more than a month away, but the former Formula 1 world champion is already thinking about stepping up in class.

Kyle Busch, who owns the truck that Raikkonen will drive in his NASCAR debut May 20 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said the 2007 F1 champion and current World Rally competitor has expressed an interest in driving in Nationwide and Sprint Cup events as well.

"We haven't had any discussions on that," Busch said Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway. "He has asked after the Truck debut in Charlotte, which is where our first focus is, kind of evaluating and seeing where he's at and how he feels and what he wants to do. He has asked about Nationwide and Cup and if Kyle Busch Motorsports could do that, or where would be the best place to do that. Like I said, he wants to reevaluate all that once we get past Charlotte."

Busch, whose two-year-old truck team has struggled to find sponsorship despite its success on the race track, has shown interest in eventually expanding to a Nationwide program. But he's not sure whether he'd have time to pull together the resources for a potential Raikkonen entry in that series, or would have to procure the equipment from Joe Gibbs Racing, the organization he competes for on the Sprint Cup level.

"We just said we would evaluate," Busch said. "I've told everybody here that KBM would like to go to Nationwide, we'd like to have a full-time Nationwide team next year, and work toward that .... If it came to be the right situation and we could get cars built or get cars from JGR, it would all be a telltale thing, so we'll just have to wait and see. But right now our focus is on Charlotte and the Truck race there, and making sure we get the right stuff under Kimi so he can run well and be good, and get some results and some success."

Toward that end, Raikkonen has tested three days this week in a KBM truck: Monday and Tuesday at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., and Thursday at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina. The 31-year-old Finland native ran roughly 400 laps at Gresham, focusing the second day on things like caution laps, watching the tachometer lights as he comes down pit road, and coming up through the gears and not spinning the tires on restarts.

"Kimi is a race car driver, so he does know how to drive race cars and drive them well," Busch said. "I wasn't there until later on in the afternoon of the first day, and got to see it firsthand, and got to get in the truck myself and run some laps to see where I compared to where he was at on tires and stuff, and we ran identical lap times. So he's right there. He knows what he's doing."

Busch was even more enthused about the test at Rockingham. "He did good again," he said. "He ran a lot better than we expected him to run there, a lot faster than we expected him to run there. So we're real happy with it."

Busch said there are a few more things he'd like Raikkonen to work on before the Charlotte truck race, but there likely won't be enough time. Busch said Raikkonen departed after the Rockingham test for the Middle East nation of Jordan, site of next week's stop on the World Rally Championship.

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