Jenson Button recovered from a poor start and endured heat exhaustion and contact with another F1 champion to finish 18th on his NASCAR Cup debut.
The 2009 world champion qualified 24th for last weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas. It is the first of three rounds he has entered in this year’s championship, alongside his participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours driving a modified NASCAR in the ‘Garage 56’ category.
Button endured a tough start to his first race in a Ford Mustang entered by Stewart-Haas. “At first, it was terrible,” he admitted.
“I mean, I must’ve been last by the end of it, and I was just like, ‘Everyone, go. I just need to drive and find a rhythm.’”
“The first stint was really bad,” he continued. “It was embarrassing for me.” He soon pitted for tyres in an attempt to improve his car’s handling and have the chance to run free of traffic.
“I was like, ‘Alright guys, we need to pit, freshen the tyres and I need some air. I need some fresh air.’ I got that. The pace was good, consistency was good. I was really happy, and passed a few cars, which was nice.
“We got a little bit unlucky with the Safety Car because it was just two laps before our window. [We] pitted, then the next stint was mayhem. We also made a couple of changes that just didn’t work. Big oversteer – went from the car feeling great to really difficult to drive.”
The winner of 15 grands prix admitted to took time to adjust to the frantic and physical nature of NASCAR racing.
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“I’ve never gone through a corner two wide, so often. And trying to place my car in the right place – I just got it wrong every time.
“Normally, if you’re a little bit slow through a corner, nobody tries to overtake you from the outside – because they’re not going to make it all the way on the next one. But here they do, because they get a wheel inside for the next one, and if you turn in, you turn around.”
Button tangled with fellow F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who also took part in yesterday’s race, and finished 29th after lining up two places ahead of Button.
“I also had a massive whack from Kimi and it fell off after that,” said Button. “The car wasn’t quite right. Every time I turned in, the rear tyres would chatter, then immediately to oversteer.”
He felt happier with the car towards the end of the race but…
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