This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series will take to the track at Watkins Glen International for the penultimate round of the regular season. It’s going to be a big race for a lot of reasons — including the fact that it’s going to set a new NASCAR record. For the first time in the sport’s history, drivers of seven different nationalities will be represented on the starting grid.
Perhaps one of the biggest names on the grid this weekend is Finnish F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who is making the most of his retirement tour by taking an open NASCAR seat provided by Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91. He’ll be joined by Le Mans legend Mike Rockenfeller, who we spoke to earlier this week.
But aside from the standard slate of American drivers, the Watkins Glen entry list is the most diverse in NASCAR’s Cup Series history, including drivers from six other countries:
- Kimi Raikkonen: Finland / (Trackhouse Racing)
- Daniel Suarez: Mexico / (Trackhouse Racing)
- Mike Rockenfeller: Germany / (Spire Motorsports)
- Loris Hezemens: Netherlands / (Team Hezeberg)
- Daniil Kvyat: Russia / (Team Hezeberg)
- Kyle Tilley: United Kingdom / (Live Fast Motorsports)
If your familiarity with racing comes in the form of European-based series like Formula 1, a seven-nationality field isn’t all that exciting. But NASCAR has primarily been a regional sport, its grid peopled almost exclusively by American drivers with a handful of international flavor thrown in every now and again.
But with the arrival of the Next-Gen car, the Cup Series has been trying to expand its appeal around the world. The ultra-stock stock car is designed to be challenging but versatile enough that any racer could get behind the wheel and, with some testing, compete with the big dogs. This weekend represents the first time we’ll see that goal in action.