How F1 Drivers Fared: Jenson Button Calls First NASCAR Cup Race an 'Emotional Roller Coaster'

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Button: NASCAR Race an 'Emotional Roller Coaster'Logan Riely - Getty Images

Throughout Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, IMSA champion Jordan Taylor and Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen ran in the top 20 and at times the top 10.

However, when the checkered flag waved in the triple overtime race won by Tyler Reddick it was F1 champion Jenson Button who emerged with the only top-20 finish among the four open wheel and sports car experts. The 2009 F1 champion finished 18th in his NASCAR Cup debut despite suffering heat exhaustion.

nascar cup series echopark automotive grand prix
Past Formula 1 champion finished xxth in his first NASCAR Cup Series start. Chris Graythen - Getty Images

“It was an emotional roller-coaster,” Button said. “The first stint was really bad. It was embarrassing for me. I was just like, ‘Everyone go. I just need to drive and find a rhythm.’ I’ve never gone through a corner too wide so often. And trying to place my car in the right place, I just got it wrong every time.”


Prior to the race, Button noted he had not raced with the gearbox that was in his Ford since 1999 and he’d never had a spotter.

Throughout the 75-lap race, Button fluctuated in-and-out of the top 20. After starting 24th, he made it to 15th near the end of Stage 1, which ended on lap 15. However, that was the highest he ran during the race. After a pit stop, he remained outside the top 20.

“We made a couple of changes that didn’t work,” Button said. “Big oversteer, went from the car feeling great to really difficult to drive. I also had a massive whack from Kimi (Raikkonen), and it fell off after that. The car wasn’t quite right. Every time I turned in the rear tires would chatter, then immediately to oversteer.”

By the time the final restart arrived in the triple overtime race, Button was 20th. He gained two positions in the final two laps on the 3.410-mile road course to secure his 18th-place finish.

“Towards the end we made some good calls stopping and putting on fresh tires,” Button said. “I enjoyed the last three restarts, got good placement and good overtaking moves from the outside.”

Still, Button said he was so hot in the car that he thought he would faint.

“I stopped twice for a minute,” said Button, who noted he didn’t have a fan in his seat. “They put ice on me, gave me loads of water, and I went back out. I was so close to getting out of the car because I thought I was going to faint. I must’ve drank eight, nine bottles of water during the race. The team kept me calm, and it’s the reason why we got a good result in the end.”

nascar cup series echopark automotive grand prix
IMSA star Jordan Taylor started fourth and finished 24th.Chris Graythen - Getty Images

Taylor, substituting for the injured Chase Elliott, qualified his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet fourth and was eighth at the end of Stage 1. However, he had dropped to 24th by the end of Stage 2 on lap 30. For the rest of the race, Taylor found himself mired in traffic and could never make it higher than 16th, which was where he restarted the race at the end of the third caution flag on lap 44. He eventually had to settle for a 24th-place finish.

“It was definitely wild,” said Taylor, an IMSA champion and winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. “I wouldn’t say I survived. I feel like I’m beat up pretty much. Every restart you just get smashed in the front, rear, side.

“The guys knew I’d be a little bit more hesitant, so they would take advantage of it. At the end, I got more aggressive and made our way almost back to the top 10. On the last restart, I don’t know who went down on the inside, but they were never going to make the corner and used us to stop themselves. I’d say it was a disappointing day.”

nascar cup series echopark automotive grand prix
Kimi Raikkonen finsihed 29th, but on the lead lap.Chris Graythen - Getty Images

Raikkonen, who’s last F1 victory came at COTA in 2018, appeared headed for a top-10 finish in the race’s later stages. With nine laps remaining in the scheduled 68-lap race, Raikkonen sat fourth. He dropped to seventh on lap 62 for the restart following the fifth caution period. On one of the overtime restarts, his involvement in an incident resulted in him spinning. That left him with a 29th-place finish in his second NASCAR Cup race.

“I think it wasn’t too bad,” said Raikkonen, who’s cool suit quit working halfway through the race. “We got unlucky with the incidents that happened. It was one of those things, unfortunately. After the spin I had, the tires were just done.

“They kept coming, getting more restarts and more restarts. It was a case of trying to stay out of the issues in the first corners. It looked like you’d be very good, then three corners later, somebody’s going the wrong direction. It was fun going through the field, but it was a bit intense on the restarts.”

IndyCar racer Conor Daly completed only 16 laps before leaving the race with transmission issues.

NASCAR Cup Series Race - EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix

Circuit of The Americas

Austin, Texas

1. (2) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 75.

2. (9) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 75.

3. (6) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 75.

4. (12) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 75.

5. (1) William Byron, Chevrolet, 75.

6. (3) Austin Cindric, Ford, 75.

7. (18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 75.

8. (32) Chris Buescher, Ford, 75.

9. (17) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 75.

10. (36) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 75.

11. (27) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 75.

12. (20) Michael McDowell, Ford, 75.

13. (29) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 75.

14. (13) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 75.

15. (19) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 75.

16. (21) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 75.

17. (25) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 75.

18. (24) Jenson Button, Ford, 75.

19. (23) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 75.

20. (10) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 75.

21. (38) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 75.

22. (16) Harrison Burton, Ford, 75.

23. (8) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 75.

24. (4) Jordan Taylor, Chevrolet, 75.

25. (37) Cody Ware, Ford, 75.

26. (33) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 75.

27. (5) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 75.

28. (15) Joey Logano, Ford, 75.

29. (22) Kimi Raikkonen, Chevrolet, 75.

30. (39) Aric Almirola, Ford, 74.

31. (14) Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 73.

32. (26) Ryan Preece, Ford, Accident, 68.

33. (28) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 62.

34. (7) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 60.

35. (30) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Driveshaft, 56.

36. (35) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, Transmission, 16.

37. (11) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 10.

38. (31) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, DVP, 0.

39. (34) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 0.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 72.886 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 30 Mins, 32 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.411 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 17 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: W. Byron 1-5;A. Cindric 6-7;T. Reddick 8-12;W. Byron 13-23;T. Reddick 24-31;C. Buescher 32;W. Byron 33-38;T. Reddick 39-41;W. Byron 42;J. Logano 43;W. Byron 44-46;T. Reddick 47-57;D. Suarez 58;C. Bell 59;T. Reddick 60-61;W. Byron 62-63;T. Reddick 64-75.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Tyler Reddick 6 times for 41 laps; William Byron 6 times for 28 laps; Austin Cindric 1 time for 2 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 1 lap; Joey Logano 1 time for 1 lap; Chris Buescher 1 time for 1 lap; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 24,2,16,48,1,99,8,9,20,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 45,3,34,4,17,47,5,43,14,42