Former Formula One driver and 2009 World Champion Jenson Button will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut later this month at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, with Rick Ware Racing.
Button will drive the No.15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang with Stewart Haas Racing providing Marketing and Promotion support. Button will compete in three races on the Chicago street and Indianapolis Motor Speedway road courses. The announcement means that for the March 26 race at the Circuit of the Americas, there will be two former Formula One World champions on the grid as it was confirmed on Wednesday that Kimi Raikkonen is returning to Project 91.
Speaking about the news, Jenson Button said:
“We are thrilled to celebrate Jenson Button as he makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series and support him on his journey to making one of his racing dreams a reality,” said Rob Shearer, Director of Global Lubricants Marketing Services, on behalf of Mobil 1. “We’re driven by the love of driving and committed to helping more people get behind the wheel – wherever they may be. Through our partnership, we hope to continue to inspire and serve drivers everywhere – encouraging them to get more out of their drive and reconnect with the adventure of the open road.”
Button reunites with Mobil 1 whom he worked with during his time in Formula One and speaking about the renewal of their partnership, Button commented saying:
I won the world championship with Mobil 1, and 14 of my 15 wins in Formula One were with Mobil 1, as well as winning the Super GT championship with them. We’ve had a really close relationship over the years and I can’t think of a better partner.
“Mobil 1 has been a big part of making these NASCAR races happen for me, so I’m very thankful to them for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to working alongside the brand to get the best out of every race weekend.”
Jei Gort, Global Motorsports and Sponsorships Manager, on behalf of Mobil 1.said:
“Our love for racing at Mobil 1 runs deep, and we’re proud to compete and play a role in so many different series. “This partnership with Jenson intersects two of racing’s most prominent series – NASCAR and F1 – and we’re very excited to be a part of his pursuit for success in NASCAR’s premier division. Through our collaboration, we aim to further celebrate the love of driving and elevate the passion for motorsports.”
Speaking about competing in motorsports and particularly Formula One, Button said:
“The reason I was able to stay in Formula One for so long was because I always felt I was learning. There was always something new in terms of technologies, or I could still improve my driving or engineering skills within Formula One. When I got to my 17th year in F1, I felt like I lost that hunger a little bit because it wasn’t new anymore. There wasn’t something new to learn.
“Stepping away from F1 gave me the opportunity to try different series that excited me. I raced Super GT in Japan. I raced at Le Mans. I raced off-road because it was another skill to learn. You put yourself in a slightly vulnerable position because it’s not your complete skill set, and there’s still more to learn to be as good as the best. I love that challenge of driving new things. It’s slightly out of my comfort zone, and I found that out with off-road trucks.
“Obviously, racing a Cup car is very different than what I’m used to. It’s a lot heavier with a lot less power and, basically, no downforce. It’s got a sequential gearbox where you need to blip the throttle, so there’s lots of stuff to learn in a very short space of time.
“But I just get excited about that new challenge, and when I throw myself into something, I am 100 percent in. I’m not just doing it for fun in some one-off. I want to be competitive, and I know that to be competitive, it’s going to take a bit of time. That’s why doing these three races works very well this season.”
Button has been busy getting ready for 24 Hours of LeMans which takes place from June 10/11 where he will compete in the Garage 56 project with Hendrick Motorsports.
The first time I jumped into the Garage 56 car, it was like, ‘What have I done? This is so different,’ and that lasted about four laps. Then it was like, ‘Hang on, it’s still a racecar. It’s got four tires that touch the road. It’s a mechanical racecar, which is even better for learning.’ I’ve really enjoyed the challenge,” said Button, who has now tested the Garage 56 car at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and earlier this week at COTA.
“A Cup car has a lot less downforce and is a lot heavier, but the Garage 56 car has given me an idea of what it will be like along with a direction, which is really useful. I know in my first race I’m not expected to be qualifying right at the front and I’m not expected to be fighting for a victory. I have a lot of respect for the drivers racing in the Cup Series. There’s so much talent there, whether it’s on ovals or road courses.
“Ten years ago, people used to say NASCAR guys can’t drive around a circuit, but I think they’ve proven that they can. Every time an ex-F1 driver gets in a stock car these days, they struggle initially. It takes a while for them to get up to speed, so I don’t expect to be right at the front, straight away. That’s why, for me, doing more than one race is really key so I can get the best out of myself and the best out of the car.
When it comes to his first NASCAR Cup Series race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where he made five starts in Formula One he commented saying:
The most important thing for me is to enjoy it. “I want to feel comfortable in the car knowing that I can get as much out of the car in any situation as other people out on track. The result is the result and we’ll see what happens, but I want to get the confidence to brake as late as I’d like, to carry the speed through the high-speed corners, and to be able to race close – wheel-to-wheel with the pack.”
SHR team co-owner Tony Stewart commented saying:
“It’s always a challenge to try a new racing discipline, and the best thing you can bring to a new opportunity like this is an open mind. “Jenson has been doing that his entire career. Those F1 cars evolve every year, and Jenson always found a way to adapt. And when he got out of F1, he jumped into sports cars and won another championship. He’s even done off-road. There’s very little that he hasn’t experienced in a racecar. He’s new to NASCAR, but he’s not new to racing. This is going to be fun for all of us, and we’re very appreciative of Mobil 1 for making it happen.”