So far, it seems, mission accomplished.

Raikkonen ran through its first Cup Series practice and qualifying sessions Saturday at the Watkins Glen (New York) International without any on-track incidents.

Although not in contention for the win, Raikkonen showed solid race pace and his biggest complaint was that he would have liked more track time.

“I wish there were more circles. It just felt like there was a lot of potential,” he said. “But you know, I’m not sure what line to pick and there just aren’t enough laps to put it all together. But yeah, it was fun.

“Pretty much what I expected after the simulator. Obviously there is always a difference, but the exact data is never shown in the simulator. At least I knew the track, but I think, yeah, I needed to be a little bit better in a few places.

“In some places I thought I was fine. But you know, it’s good. I didn’t expect anything, and we’re kind of in the middle, so that’s okay.”

Kimi Raikkonen

Photo: Project91

The race at The Glen was Raikkonen’s first involvement in motorsport since he retired from Formula 1 last December with his final appearance for Alfa Romeo at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Finn’s appearance in the Cup Series is part of Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 initiative, which seeks to expand NASCAR’s reach by bringing talented international drivers to the series.

To prepare for this weekend’s race, Raikkonen, 42, brought his entire family to the US for a few weeks to soak in the experience.

During that time, he has worked on the simulator, competed in iRacing, participated in pit stop practice sessions in the workshop and recently took part in his “Driver’s Choice Orientation Test” at Virginia International Raceway.

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Asked why he would risk “failing” by switching to another form of motorsport, Raikkonen rejected the suggestion.

“I don’t see any risk. Why not?” he said. “What do I have to lose? What do I do badly in a NASCAR race or do badly in any race? I don’t care. I’m doing it for me. Good or bad, it can happen even if I do 20 races .They can all be bad for different reasons.

“I don’t see anything negative. I think it’s great. I’m sure there are many drivers who would like to take a chance and give it a try, but it’s not that easy.

“So maybe that opens some doors that there’s a better chance in the future to try to get more Europeans.”

With practice and qualifying completed on Saturday, Raikkonen said his focus remains on familiarizing himself with NASCAR rules in preparation for Sunday’s race.

“You know, hopefully without making any stupid mistakes on that side and we’ll see what we can do with the car,” he said. “We had a little bit of an idea of ​​where we started and where we went, and maybe somewhere in the middle is better, and you know, we’re trying to improve.

“I want to have fun, but also do my best.”

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