The 2007 world champion completed his first Cup Series practice and qualifying sessions at Watkins Glen on Saturday without incident on track and will finish 27th in Sunday’s race.
His fellow International Cup debutants, 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller (Spire Chevrolet) and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat (Hezeberg Toyota) will start 33rd and 36th respectively.
Despite not challenging for pole in his first outing in motorsport since his last F1 appearance at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Raikkonen showed solid race pace and his biggest complaint that he would like more time on the track.
“I wish there were more laps, it just felt like there was a lot of potential,” said the Finn, who drives the #91 Chevrolet Trackhouse Racing.
“I’m not sure what line to take 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 okay.
“But you know, it’s good. I didn’t expect anything, and we’re kind of in the middle, so that’s okay.”
Raikkonen’s Cup Series appearance 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, the 42-year-old 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 at the Trackhouse shop, and recently participated in his “Driver Orientation Test” at Virginia International Raceway.
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? That I did badly in a NASCAR race or badly in any race? I don’t care. I do it for myself.
“Good or bad result, it can happen even if I do 20 races. All of them can be bad for different reasons.
“I don’t see anything negative, I think it’s great.
“I’m sure there are a lot of drivers who would like to take a chance and 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.”
Raikkonen said he focused 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.”