Rockenfeller saw “pretty much everything” in NASCAR debut

Mike Rockenfeller, Spire Motorsports, Nations Guard Chevrolet Camaro

Rockenfeller, a two-time Le Mans class winner and former DTM champion, made his first Cup Series start on Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, driving the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.

Already in an unfamiliar setting, the German road racer got to experience NASCAR’s version of racing in the race before the track dried out, ran near the front early in the event and even dueled with former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen on the track.

Rockenfeller, 38, made contact with Tyler Reddick in the inner loop on Lap 32 of 90 that knocked him off pace and a late pit stop for fuel dropped him to 30th in the final running order but still on the lead lap.

Despite the challenges – which included starting the race on wet weather tires and having to change to slicks under green-flag conditions – Rockenfeller seemed to relish the experience.

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“In all my years of racing, my NASCAR Cup Series debut was up there when it comes to being a wild experience,” he said. “However, all of the challenges we faced really helped me get up to speed much quicker than expected with the car and the team.

“When the race started after the delay, the track was incredibly slippery, and the racing in NASCAR is so intense and close. I also had a collision with Tyler and was running with the leaders at one stage.

“It was a race of pretty much everything!”

Rockenfeller was especially thankful to Spire for giving him the opportunity to compete in the Cup Series. He has one more planned race with the team this season, Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Roval course.

Mike Rockenfeller, Spire Motorsports, Nations Guard Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images

“If you’d have told me ahead of Watkins Glen that I would have run as high as fourth, then I’d have not believed you,” he said. “You’ll never win a race in your first time out in the NASCAR Cup Series, but I really think Spire Motorsports and myself exceeded the targets we set ourselves.

“I’m genuinely excited for next time out, because that was some of the most fun I’ve had in a race car for a long time.”

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