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Button set for first F1 outing since leaving sport in McLaren M23 at Monterey

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Jenson Button has been confirmed for his first racing appearance since walking away from Formula 1 at the end of last year when he demonstrates a classic McLaren M23 car at the upcoming Rolex Motorsports Reunion.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey will play host to the event from August 17-20, with Button being confirmed as an attendee on Thursday.

Button made what looks set to be his last F1 start in Abu Dhabi last November, stepping back from his McLaren race seat for 2017 and becoming a team ambassador.

Button has been spending much of his free time in the United States recently, and will make another appearance in California at Mazda Raceway when he tries out Emerson Fittipaldi’s title-winning car from the 1974 F1 season.

Photo courtesy Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

“It’s always special to drive a grand prix car with an illustrious history, and the M23 wrote one of the most significant chapters in motorsport history throughout much of the 1970s,” Button said.

“It’s a somewhat strange sensation to drive a car from this era – you sit much more upright in the cockpit, and you feel like you could almost reach out of the cockpit and touch the front wheels.

“But, once you drive it, you quickly start to understand what made it so successful – it’s incredibly easy to drive, has a really consistent balance, and plenty of feel. Everything you put into it, you get out of it, which is very rewarding for a driver.”

“We are honored to host Jenson Button at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and showcase a car with such great history,” CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Gill Campbell added.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of racing advancement and Jenson’s spirited exhibition laps will provide a superb link to motorsport’s past that fans will assuredly enjoy.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).