Luke Smith

F1 writer

F1 driver Jenson Button may have NASCAR on his future radar

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Jenson Button would like to enter a NASCAR event in the future after enjoying a visit to March’s Auto Club 400 at Fontana, but has no interest in following former McLaren Formula 1 teammate Fernando Alonso into the Indianapolis 500.

2009 world champion Button will make a one-off return to F1 this weekend while Alonso races in the Indy 500, with the Briton believing he had made his final Grand Prix start in Abu Dhabi last year.

Button has not raced in any discipline since the season finale at Yas Marina, instead preferring to focus on his triathlon training after qualifying for the upcoming world championships.

When asked if he would consider following Alonso’s lead and entering the ‘500 in the future, Button revealed he would prefer to try out NASCAR.

“Indy’s not really been something that I’ve ever thought about. Personally, I was surprised that Fernando was interested in doing it, but we all like different things,” Button said.

“I would like to race in NASCAR, I think that would be fun. I went along to one of the races this year, Jimmie Johnson invited me, and I had a great time.

“I loved seeing the show as it is, and it’s very different to other motorsports. Equally, it’s a challenge, it’s a massive challenge. Who knows?”

Button was a guest of Johnson at Auto Club Speedway back in March over the Australian Grand Prix weekend, with the Briton noting at the time that there was much F1 could learn from NASCAR.

Button added that he would also like to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans one day, but only in a competitive seat such as the one Nico Hulkenberg had with Porsche when he won the race in 2015.

“We’re racing drivers, we’re not just F1 drivers, and we like trying different sports,” Button said.

“For me, I would like to do Le Mans one day. I think it would be a great experience, a great team atmosphere. Obviously it has to be the right opportunity like Nico had.

“And then there’s other motorsports that I love like rallycross as well. So there are many things. But Indy hasn’t been up there for me for many different reasons.”

Button is also friends with former 3-time NASCAR Cup champion and team co-owner Tony Stewart. The pair starred in several humorous commercials a few years ago for Mobil 1. Check out two of the best (who can forget Stewart’s immortal “soda cookies”):

Contributing: Jerry Bonkowski

Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton interested in Daytona 500 effort

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton would like to try his hand at NASCAR one day, saying an entry to the Daytona 500 would be of interest.

The F1 paddock was left stunned on Wednesday when Fernando Alonso announced he would be entering the 101st Indianapolis 500 as part of a joint entry between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

Alonso’s decision to skip the Monaco Grand Prix and enter the Indy 500 comes in an era when few F1 drivers sample other series but has got many thinking.

“I think it’s great that a driver is able to do that. I think us drivers should be able to do more than one series,” Hamilton said on Thursday.

“There was a period of time in the past where there were drivers doing multiple series. I think it’s pretty cool that he’s doing it.”

So what would Hamilton like to try his hand at?

NBC Sports writer Nate Ryan wrote a column following Alonso’s announcement that he would like to see Hamilton (among others) try out the Daytona 500 one day – and hit the money, with the Briton admitting he’d like a shot at the race.

“I wouldn’t miss any of the races in F1, definitely continue to do all the races,” Hamilton said.

“I’d like to do MotoGP. I’d like to ride a MotoGP race. Probably a NASCAR race like the Daytona 500 maybe.”

Hamilton is not the only F1 driver to express an interest in NASCAR, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas racer Romain Grosjean also flirting with the idea in the past.

Ricciardo has an open invite from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to race with his team in the Xfinity Series one day, something that the Australian is keen to take him up on.

Grosjean, meanwhile, races for the team ran by Stewart-Haas Racing’s co-owner Gene Haas in F1, and tried to secure a run at a road course NASCAR event last year, but could not make it work due to schedule clashes.

Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean targets Sonoma for possible NASCAR debut

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean believes the best chance of making his NASCAR debut will come at Sonoma in late June.

Grosjean expressed an interest in trying out NASCAR after joining Stewart-Haas co-owner Gene Haas’ new Formula 1 operation for its debut season in 2016.

The Frenchman confirmed to NBC Sports in February that he had discussed the possibility with Haas and restated his desire when speaking ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Grosjean admits he still needs permission.

“So far I haven’t spoken with my wife!” Grosjean said.

“Definitely I want to do it. I think it’s something we’ve discussed since day one. It would be great experience. When it’s going to happen, I don’t know. It’s 21 races, it’s quite a tight schedule already in Formula 1. Of course, you don’t want to start on an oval, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable.”

Grosjean’s best opportunities for a road course appearance come with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma on June 26 and the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen on August 7. However, the race at The Glen would cut into F1’s three-week summer break.

“That’s a problem,” Grosjean said. “Sonoma is better, I think.”

Sonoma may be better for Grosjean, but it would create a brutal five-weekend run of racing that involves a great deal of travel.

After the Canadian Grand Prix on June 12, Grosjean will venture to Azerbaijan for the nation’s first F1 race on June 19 before potentially heading to California to make his NASCAR debut.

Following Sonoma, Grosjean would then need to go straight to Austria for the next F1 race on July 3, which is then followed by the British Grand Prix one week later.

A key note is that Stewart-Haas Racing would not be allowed to field an additional car for Grosjean at either event. He would have to drive for another team. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Rule Book permit teams to field four cars only “unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR.” Richard Buck, managing director of the Sprint Cup Series, told ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass that no team could field a fifth entry for a rookie. A potential opportunity could come with HScott Motorsports, which is aligned with Stewart-Haas Racing and fields two cars for Michael Annett and Clint Bowyer.

Grosjean ruled out racing on ovals in NASCAR and IndyCar, including the Indianapolis 500.

“I love watching the race, but I’ve never been attracted by it, so Le Mans 24 Hours yes, Rally Monte Carlo yes, but ovals… I’d probably miss turning right,” Grosjean said.

Having previously raced in GTs, Grosjean is no stranger to closed cockpit racing. Although he conceded there would be much to learn in NASCAR, it is a challenge he relishes.

“It’s probably a bit heavier and more powerful,” Grosjean said of Cup cars. “The brakes don’t look to be the best brakes in the world. There’s a lot of contact as well. A few things to learn, but why not? It would be fun.”

Formula 1 drivers would like to try NASCAR

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Formula 1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez are both keen to try out a Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup car in the future, having both discussed doing so with team boss Gene Haas.

Haas saw his F1 operation get off to a flying start in its debut Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix as Grosjean charged from 19th on the grid to finish sixth.

Not only did Haas F1 Team become the first team to race in a grand prix under the American flag in 30 years, but it also was the first start-up project to score points in its debut since Toyota in 2002.

However, both Grosjean and Gutierrez are looking to take full advantage of being part of the Haas family and try their hand in NASCAR in the future.

“No worries, I’m happy to do that! Yeah, it would be fun,” Grosjean told NBC Sports.

When asked if talks had taken place with Haas about a NASCAR ride, Grosjean said: “Yes! Yes!

“I don’t know [when], whenever we can, but it would be brilliant. I’ve sat in one of their cars when I went to the workshop in Kannapolis (North Carolina). It looks big. But it would be amazing.

Gutierrez also expressed an interest in trying out NASCAR in the future and also has spoken to Haas about doing so.

“It would be very interesting to do as an activity and to try the car, imagine the difference,” Gutierrez said to NBC Sports.

Gutierrez also believes that some of the experience Haas will bring from NASCAR to F1 could aid others in the series to open up to new approaches, particularly when it comes to communications and team management.

“Technically, it’s very different to NASCAR. You cannot compare it,” Gutierrez said. “The approach that they have in terms of the business model of the team is very good, to make a team out of nothing.

“Communication-wise, it is very different in the approach and experience they bring from NASCAR. The knowledge that they bring from NASCAR will help to change a bit the approach of many teams that they have here in Europe.

“So it can only be good for Formula 1.”

F1’s Daniel Ricciardo wants to race in NASCAR for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo says that he will “definitely” take up Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s open invite to race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series one day, but only when he has time to prepare properly.

During a Twitter Q&A last year, Earnhardt said that Red Bull driver Ricciardo would be welcome to race in a JR Motorsports car on a road course at any time.

Ricciardo responded by saying that he would look at his 2016 race calendar, which is already poised to be busier than ever thanks to a record-breaking 21 F1 races, starting in Australia on March 20.

Speaking to reporters in London last week, Ricciardo said that he would definitely enter an Xfinity race one day – ideally alongside Earnhardt – but that he would want to dedicate some time to preparing for it so he could be competitive.

“I would love to,” Ricciardo said when asked if he could do an Xfinity race in the near future.

“To be honest, I didn’t get to a point where I asked Christian [Horner, Red Bull team principal]. Because if I did it, I would want to do it properly. I would hate to go there and get my ass kicked basically. Then it looks bad on F1 as well. The cars would be so different, I would want to make sure that I tested and got comfortable.

“So I think in the calendar there were some races that I could do which didn’t clash, but the question was when could I do the testing. This is even before asking Red Bull, but just in my mind I was like, ‘When could I test? When could I get to America?'”

Ricciardo is an avowed fan of late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, having run the stylized No. 3 on his go-kart that was made famous by “The Intimidator.”

Ricciardo, 26, said that he would most likely give NASCAR a go once he had checked off his targets in F1, where he has won three races and finished third in the drivers’ championship in 2014.

“I would love to do it one day, but now, not only is it a bit rushed, but I’ve definitely got targets here in Europe and in Formula 1 which I want to tick off first,” Ricciardo said.

“Sure, I’ve ticked off the winners’ column, but the world title is the real one. It will wait a little bit, but sure, one day, I think I will definitely take up his offer.

“Hopefully race alongside him, that would be cool.”