Raikkonen gives NASCAR a try at Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Kimi Raikkonen struggled so badly in his first few hours at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the former Formula One champion didn’t expect much from his NASCAR debut.

He slapped the wall on the second lap Friday night in the Trucks Series race, wasn’t sure of the rules for passing on his first restart, and missed a call into the pits from his crew. But Raikkonen still managed a 15th-place finish.

“You’d rather be more high up,” he said of his finish. “But I think how it felt this morning, and qualifying, I am pretty pleased how it was in a race. For sure, there is still a lot to learn and improve.”

Where and when he’ll continue his learning process remains to be seen.

The Finn has not announced any more races, but alluded earlier Friday to next week’s Nationwide Series event at Charlotte and later getting into the elite Sprint Cup Series. Asked directly after the Trucks race if he’ll be in the Nationwide race next week, Raikkonen would not commit.

“We’ll see,” he said.

But something Raikkonen said a minute later was more telling when asked what he thought about Friday’s schedule _ the Trucks practiced, qualified and raced all in one day.

“It’s a lot shorter for sure,” Raikkonen said. “It’s quite far away to come from Europe.”

There’s no point in Raikkonen continuing in the Trucks if he’s got any real interest in NASCAR. The natural progression would be a race or two in Nationwide before trying to get into some Cup events.

But Raikkonen said he’s not yet been in a stock car, and his only experience before Friday was two test sessions in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. Busch, winner of Friday night’s race, admitted after that he’s got a car at his shop and details could be announced soon on a Raikkonen race.

Raikkonen spent nine years in Formula One, driving for Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari. He totaled 18 wins, 62 podium finishes and won the 2007 championship.

He’s currently racing for the World Rally Car Championship with his own team, ICE 1 Racing, and is ranked eighth in the overall standings. He’s not scheduled to compete again in that series until next month in Greece.

Busch, who spent time tutoring Raikkonen between Friday’s practice sessions, went on to win the race and played a part in Raikkonen’s finish. Because Raikkonen missed the first call into the pits, he was going to have to make his stop under green.

But a spin by Busch, while Busch was leading, brought out the caution and allowed Raikkonen to pit under yellow. Busch said he was unaware of Raikkonen’s situation.

“You’ll say I’m lying anyway,” he smiled.

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