Jenson Button finished 18th in his NASCAR Cup Series debut Sunday at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. The 2009 Formula One world champion qualified 24th for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix and kept his No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang relatively clean throughout the 68-lap race around the 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course. Button was joined on the grid by fellow F1 champion Kimi Räikkönen and the duo spent much of the race in close quarters. Räikkönen qualified just ahead of Button in 22nd, but Button got the better of Räikkönen in the race, finishing 11 spots ahead of the 2007 title winner.
Jenson Button, Driver of the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang:
“It was an emotional rollercoaster. At first, it was terrible. 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.’ 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. The first stint was really bad. It was embarrassing for me. I was like, ‘Alright guys, we need to pit, freshen the tires 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. 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. I also had a massive whack from Kimi (Räikkönen), 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. It was really difficult, but toward the end, we made some good calls stopping and putting on fresh tires. I enjoyed the last three restarts – got good placement and good overtaking moves from the outside. Finished 18th after almost stopping because I had heat exhaustion. It was so hot. I don’t have a fan in my seat, which really didn’t help me too much. It was so hot, I thought I was going to faint in the car. So, I stopped twice for a minute. 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. So, I was happy.”
● This was Button’s sixth overall start at COTA. He made five Formula One starts at the track between 2012-2016 with a best finish of fifth in the 2012 United States Grand Prix.
● Button won 15 grands prix in a nearly two-decade F1 career (2000-2017), including a dominant six-win campaign in 2009 that netted him the championship. Upon retiring from F1 in 2017, the British driver has taken on a variety of challenges with NASCAR being the latest. It began with sports cars in the Japanese Super GT Series’ GT500 class, where he won the 2018 championship. He then ran a five-race stint in the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship, a drive that included the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Button has even competed in off-road endurance racing, running the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000 in 2019.
● Tyler Reddick won the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix to score his fourth career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his first at COTA. His margin over second-place Kyle Busch was 1.411 seconds.
● There were eight caution periods for a total of 17 laps.
● All but 10 of the 39 drivers in the race finished on the lead lap.
● Ross Chastain leaves COTA as the championship leader with a 19-point advantage over second-place Busch.
Button’s next NASCAR Cup Series race is the Grant Park 220 on July 2 on the streets of downtown Chicago. The 100-lap race around the temporary 2.2-mile, 12-turn street course begins at 5:30 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Button’s final Cup Series race of the 2023 season is the Verizon 200 at The Brickyard on Aug. 13 on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.