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Interview

Button hoping for a "calmer" NASCAR experience at Chicago

Former Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button admits he had a rollercoaster of emotions after his first NASCAR Cup race, but it still left him wanting more.

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jenson Button

Button is running three Cup races this season in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 15 Ford with assistance from Stewart-Haas Racing and had an eventful debut in March at Circuit of the Americas.

He finished a respectable 18th but was on track for a better performance before the race ended in a flurry of wreck-induced cautions. Jenson also suffered from a bout of heat exhaustion in the event.

“I think for half the race at COTA, I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this again.’ But for the other half of the race, I thought, ‘This is awesome, just awesome,’ in terms of the racing, the wheel-to-wheel action and not giving an inch,” Button said Tuesday.

“I definitely enjoyed that, and it’s something you do miss in single-seaters, especially in Formula 1 because the amount of downforce you have, there isn’t so much wheel-to-wheel action. I feel I had more wheel-to-wheel action in the first lap of the race at COTA than I do in a whole grand prix.

“So, loads of emotions – positive and negative – at COTA. Does it make me want to do it more? Yeah.”

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing, Mobil 1 Ford Mustang, Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing, Onx Homes / iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing, Mobil 1 Ford Mustang, Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing, Onx Homes / iLOQ Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

While Button said he would like to try a NASCAR oval “one day,” he’s likely to focus on road and street courses.

“It’s another world,” Button said of oval racing. “These guys have driven ovals since they were five or six years old. So, why would I be good there? I don’t know. It’s a possibility, but it’s a lot of work.

“It’s already enough getting used to driving such a big car for me, and the style of racing is a big step as well. Maybe one day. But I’m very happy and very lucky to be doing the three races I’m doing this year.”

In the months since his Cup debut at COTA, Jenson has been busy as one of three drivers for NASCAR’s Garage 56 entry in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The entry was a modified version of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car and a collaboration of NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, IMSA, and Goodyear. Despite a late mechanical issue, the entry still completed the race and received positive reviews from the fans in attendance.

Button, 43, still has two more Cup races scheduled this season – July 2 in NASCAR’s first street race at Chicago and Aug. 13 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

A new experience for all drivers

Button may find himself on a more equal footing with NASCAR drivers at Chicago – none of the competitors will have actually driven the course before the first practice session on July 1.

“At COTA, I felt like I’m not used to using that much of a circuit. I normally drive within the white lines, and at COTA if you make a mistake, you just run wide and come back on,” he said. “You don’t really lose that much time, and again, it’s a very different way of driving.

“Chicago should be better for me. I feel confident that I can have a better result, but it can also all end in Turn 1. So, it doesn’t matter how quick you are, you also need to have a little bit of luck on your side.”

Button also said he believes the narrower confines of the 12-turn, 2.2-mile street course will lesson some of the wild maneuvers that highlighted the race at COTA.

“I do think that the racing will be a little bit calmer at Chicago, and if not in the first start, people will start packing up a little bit and being a bit more respectful of the circuit,” he said. “That’s the big thing with a street circuit that people learn very quickly.”

 

Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images

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