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NASCAR's Daniel Suarez Issues A Strong Warning To New Teammate Kimi Räikkönen

“It’s different, and he doesn't know all these drivers. He doesn't know how they race,” Daniel Suarez said of Kimi Räikkönen ahead of Watkins Glen. “He doesn't know how aggressive they are, so that part is going to take a little bit.”

By Andrew Woodin
Rftc Daniel Suarez

There are traditional sports, and then there’s NASCAR. In a league where every driver is looking for a tactical advantage over the rest of the field, the need for speed will only get you so far. When it comes to the sport, “rubbin’ is racing,” but that’s just a drop in the bucket of the great lengths drivers will go to when the race is on the line. It’s all about the handles and the convergence of machine versus human error as true wheelmen rely on battle-tested instinct, always having a finger on the pulse of their vehicles. Now that Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen is mere days away from making his NASCAR debut with the Trackhouse Racing team at Watkins Glen International, NASCAR race winner and one of the featured drivers on the upcoming USA Network series “Race for the Championship” Daniel Suarez delivered both some words of encouragement to the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion and some cautionary advice.

Joining Räikkönen at the Select Driver Orientation Test at Virginia International Raceway last week, Suarez told Motorsport.com that he was genuinely impressed with how swiftly the Finn acclimated and handled the Next Gen car.

“It was good; it was short,” Suarez told reporters. “I have been trying to learn as much as I can from him because he is an amazing race car driver.”

Suarez went on to point out how he believes the intangibles involved in the sport are what really cultivates a good driver.

“I believe a race car driver is great not just because of driving, I think it is just everything else around him. How he thinks and how open or closed minded he or she is.”

Still, Suarez, who recently won at Sonoma in June, made it clear that the real challenge for Räikkönen will unfold in how other drivers treat him on the track as crashes and cautions are an intrinsic element to the league.

“It’s different, and he doesn't know all these drivers. He doesn't know how they race,” Suarez said. “He doesn't know how aggressive they are, so that part is going to take a little bit.”

Though down from the previous year, BuildingSpeed.com documented that there were 117 crashes in the 2021 season. Suarez also pointed out that Räikkönen will undoubtedly face logistical in-race challenges, such as the pit stops, restarts and vehicle maintenance.

“That is the part I feel like is going to be a process for him … because he has never done it before.”

Räikkönen’s journey to NASCAR stems from Trackhouse’s Project 91 initiative that aims to broaden the sport’s global influence by integrating international racing talent into the Cup Series. In addition to Suarez, the Finn will also join Trackhouse racing veteran and two-time NASCAR Xfinity winner Ross Chastain at Watkins Glen International. It will be interesting to see how the 42-year-old Räikkönen adjusts to the often-aggressive tactical strategies of NASCAR racers, but if he’s open to learning, Suarez and Chastain could teach him a thing or two about “rubbin.’”

Watch all the race action this weekend on USA Network, which will feature the Xfinity Series race Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and the Cup Series race Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. You can also catch up on the action on the NBC Sports app and Peacock. And be sure to catch Daniel Suarez and a host of NASCAR stars on the new, 10-part USA Network series “Race for the Championship,” that premiering Sept. 1.

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