Why Button is living out his Days of Thunder NASCAR dream

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang

Who knew that Tom Cruise would have such an impact on a nine-year old Jenson Button? Little did we know that the kid from Frome in Somerset, who was just beginning to tear up the kart tracks of the UK and then onwards to Formula 1 stardom, was so in awe of Cole Trickle and his somewhat unorthodox journey to winning a fictitious version of the Daytona 500 for Harry Hogge…

“Where I grew up we had four channels on TV, so we didn’t have any NASCAR racing coverage,” says Button. “So, the first NASCAR race I ever watched was Days of Thunder!

“I was like ‘this is so cool’. I was nine at the time, watching with my dad. To get the chance to live out that dream, it’s really cool.”

Thursday’s announcement that Button will run three road course races was revealed in a somewhat Hollywood way, with him appearing on FOX’s RaceHub show, joining host Kaitlyn Vincie, former NASCAR team owner Andy Petree and Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray to discuss his new deal.

Of course, Button is also involved as a driver in NASCAR’s Garage 56 programme, which takes a Chevrolet Camaro to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, but his chance to race in Cup – in a Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang – is nothing more than a happy coincidence for the now Californian-domiciled 43-year-old.

“I’m excited and very nervous at the same time,” says Button. “It’s so different. I’ve seen so many drivers from background in Formula 1 getting into a stock car, a Cup car, and it’s really difficult. And you don’t get much practice either.

“I’m up for a challenge, I’ve got the utmost respect for the drivers and teams I’ll be racing against. It’s staggering the attention to detail they go to, to be competitive. It’s going to take a bit of time; patience will be key while I’m learning. Not to overdrive it and get frustrated, that’s the thing.”

Button’s preparation is in full swing right now, with the COTA race just a couple of weeks away. He got some sly stock car track time in advance with the Garage 56 car – “it is a lot different [to a Cup car] – otherwise they wouldn’t let me test,” he quickly points out – and was delighted to find that NASCAR has extended its practice session in Austin to 50 minutes rather than 15. But what does he expect from his debut?

Button’s Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang for his NASCAR debut

Photo by: True Speed PR

“I’ve watched the races over and over again, especially on the road…

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