News & Media

Busch, Nemecheck partner for Raikkonen ride

May 21, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

CONCORD, N.C. -- The mystery car sitting in the shop at Kyle Busch Motorsports is a mystery no more.

KBM is partnering with Joe Nemechek's NEMCO Motorsports to put 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen in the No. 87 Toyota for next Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, according to a report.

KBM owner Kyle Busch dropped hints about the deal after winning Friday night's Camping World Truck Series event at Charlotte. Busch alluded to the car in his shop, acknowledged that it was a Toyota but declined to reveal its provenance.

KBM will assemble the car Raikkonen will drive in his Nationwide debut. NEMCO will provide the transporter, crew (supplemented by KBM), a backup car, and -- most important -- the owners' points that will guarantee Raikkonen a starting spot in the race. The No. 87 currently is 19th in the owners' standings, well inside the top 30 (the cutoff for a guaranteed starting spot).

Coincidentally, Busch made his Nationwide debut at Charlotte in 2003, driving a No. 87 Chevrolet owned by Joe Nemechek. Busch finished second to Matt Kenseth.

Raikkonen finished 15th, on the lead lap, in his Truck series debut Friday night.

Brad Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide Series champion, says perhaps Raikkonen should consider a slower learning curve.

"Charlotte's probably the last place I'd pick to make my Nationwide debut," Keselowski told Sporting News. "It's a very difficult race track that changes a lot throughout the race. I think he should run about 15 more Truck races before moving up."

Keselowski pointed out that the new Nationwide car introduced full-time to the series this year has widened the gap between the Truck and Nationwide series and made the transition more difficult. Given that Raikkonen seems determined to accelerate his NASCAR career and run Nationwide, Keselowski has some pertinent advice.

"It sounds cheesy, but the number one thing is to make sure you run all the laps," Keselowski said. "There's no substitute for track time. Even if you have to lift off [the gas pedal] and find a hole to race in, you need to make sure you finish the race."

Lifting off, however, may be foreign to the Finnish world champion, given that -- both on the race track and in his career -- his attitude is full speed ahead.