Jenson Button makes NASCAR debut at COTA in first of three Cup races with RWR’s No. 15 NASCAR adds choose rule for road courses, Cup practice at COTA Kaulig Racing tabs Dirt Late Model’s ‘Superman’ for Bristol race William Byron to drive three Truck races for Kyle Busch Motorsports Dr. Diandra: Dissecting Cup’s new short track package
Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula One champion, will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut on March 26 at the Circuit of the Americas in the first of three races in the 2023 season.
In a partnership between Rick Ware Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing (which provides marketing and promotional support), Button will drive the No. 15 Ford Mustang with Mobil 1 sponsorship. Button will also race the No. 15 RWR (chartered car) July 2nd place in street racing in Chicago and August 13 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Button already did laps on a Next Gen car testing Chevrolet Camaro this year, which he will share with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller in the Garage 56 entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Button tested the car Garage 56 earlier this week in COTA.
NEW NASCAR ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Button impressed with Cup teams facing top Formula 1 teams
During his Formula One career, which began in 2000, the 15-time winner drove for Williams, Renault, Honda and McLaren for 17 full seasons.
In addition to his work as a commentator for Sky Sports F1, Button continued to be actively involved in racing. He won the 2018 GT500 class championship of Japan’s Super GT Series.
Button has also been active in sports car racing, making five starts in the World Endurance Championship (including the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans) and off-road endurance racing (Mint 400 and Baja 1000 in 2019). Mobil 1 has been a sponsor for over 20 years since it has been in Formula One.
“I won the World Championship with Mobil 1 and 14 of my 15 F1 wins were with Mobil 1 and also won the Super GT Championship with them,” Button said in a press release. “We have had a very close relationship over the years and I can’t imagine a better partner.
“Mobil 1 played a big role in organizing these NASCAR races, so I am very grateful to them for giving me the opportunity. I look forward to working with the brand to get the most out of every race weekend.”
“We are thrilled to celebrate Jenson Button’s NASCAR Cup Series debut and support him as he makes one of his racing dreams come true,” said Rob Shearer, Global Lubricants Marketing Director, Mobil 1. release. “We are driven by the love of driving and strive to help more people get behind the wheel, wherever they are. Through our partnership, we hope to continue to inspire and serve drivers around the world, encouraging them to enjoy driving more and reconnect to the adventure on the open road.”
Button made 306 F1 starts, ending his career at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix as a replacement for Fernando Alonso (who raced the Indy 500).
“The reason I stayed in F1 for so long was because I always felt like I was learning,” he said. “There was always something new in terms of technology, or I could still improve my driving or engineering skills in F1. When I turned 17 years old in Formula 1, I felt that I lost a little of this hunger, because it was no longer something new. There was nothing new to learn.
“Moving away from F1 has given me the opportunity to try out different series which has thrilled 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 full skill set and there’s still a lot to learn to be as good as the best. I love this challenge of driving new things. It’s a bit out of my comfort zone, and I’ve seen it on off-road trucks.”
Button had already become familiar with the stock car industry through his new connections with Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR (which both race at Le Mans).
Lovely evening in @NASCAR clash here at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Thank you very much @nascar John Doonan @chadknaus @teamhendrick for their amazing hospitality. Great to catch up with mine @nascarg56 Rocky family and @JimmyJohnson. @WilliamByron I think you have a new superfan!! pic.twitter.com/NRRIUsXebq
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) February 6, 2023
Button, who lives in Los Angeles, visited The Clash at the Colosseum last month with his family. During the Jan. 28 press conference at Daytona International Speedway to unveil the Garage 56 driver line-up, he spoke at length. about what fascinated him in the cup machine.
“Obviously racing in Cup cars is very different from what I’m used to,” he said in a press release announcing three races with the RWR. “It’s a lot heavier, with a lot less power and almost no downforce. It has a sequential gearbox where you have to step on the gas pedal, so there are a lot of things to learn in a very short amount of time.
“But I’m just excited about this new challenge and when I throw myself into something, I do it 100 percent. I don’t just do it for fun on some one-off occasion. I want to be competitive and I know it will take some time to be competitive. That is why participation in these three races works very well this season.”
Button said it took him about four laps in Garage 56 testing to get the hang of it. a slightly modified version of the Next Gen Camaro that he will race June 10-11 at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
✌️ out @KOTA pic.twitter.com/tYPa6QEAZI
— NASCARG56 (@nascarg56) March 9, 2023
“The first time I jumped into a Garage 56 car, I thought, ‘What have I done? It’s so different,” Button said. “Back then it was like, ‘Wait, this is still a racing car. It has four tires that touch the road. It’s a mechanical race car that’s even better for learning.” I really enjoyed this challenge.”
“The Cup car has a lot less downforce and is a lot heavier, but the Garage 56 car gave me an idea of what it would be like, along with direction, which is really helpful,” he said. “I know that in my first race I am not expected to lead qualifying and I am not expected to fight for the win. I have great respect for the pilots who participated in the Cup. There’s so much talent out there, whether it’s ovals or road courses.
“Ten years ago people said that NASCAR guys couldn’t drive on the track, but I think they proved they can. Every time a former F1 driver gets into a production car, he has a hard time at first. They need time to pick up speed, so I don’t expect to be ahead right away. That is why it is very important for me to participate in more than one race so that I can get the most out of myself and out of the car.”
Button will race in COTA alongside fellow F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified 27th and finished 37th in his Cup debut on August 21 at Watkins Glen International in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 Chevrolet.
“The most important thing for me is to have fun,” Button said of his debut in COTA (where he made five starts in F1). “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 on the track. The result is the result and we will see what happens, but I want to have the confidence to brake as late as I want, to maintain speed in high-speed corners and be able to race close – handlebars – to the wheel with a backpack.
The COTA race will also feature two other notable drivers from other IndyCar series. Conor Daly (who made his Cup debut at the Daytona 500) and IMSA’s Jordan Taylor (in place of the injured Chase Elliott).
NASCAR will add a selection rule to restart at highway circuits after initially not including those events before the season, the sanctioning body announced Thursday.
The selection rule, which allows competitors to choose which lane they want to restart, will make its on-road debut next week at the Circuit of the Americas. NASCAR stated that this change came about after discussions with athletes.
Prior to the start of the season, NASCAR announced that it would allow the selection rule to be used for Super Speedway and off-road racing in the Cup, Xfinity, and Craftsman Truck Series.
NASCAR also announced Thursday that Cup teams will get 50 minutes of practice in COTA because it is the first road event with a new aero package for these types of tracks and short tracks. The session is scheduled from 2:05 pm to 2:55 pm ET on March 24.