Jenson Button says family environment, road courses hooked him on trying NASCAR

Jenson Button NASCAR family
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Jenson Button figured his NASCAR debut might come with a “lower category” (applying the well-polished and delightful European vernacular of an articulate Brit who has spent a lifetime racing overseas).

Surely, the 2009 Formula One champion’s entry into stock cars — racing vehicles that are twice as heavy and far less responsive than his bailiwick – would need to be in the Camping World Truck or possibly Xfinity series.

But when he was talking to a Mobil 1 executive late last summer, suddenly the Cup Series became a realistic possibility.

“I said to him, ‘I’d love to get into NASCAR,’ and I was thinking more truck series, Xfinity series,” Button said during a Zoom news conference Friday morning with reporters around the world. “And he’s like, ‘Really? Let me make a few calls.’ And then we had lots of texts. And he’s like we might be able to make this happen. And I was like awesome. And then it was Abu Dhabi, last F1 race of the season when we properly talked and said we can do this. And he said we want to do more than one race, because it’s better for us and also better for you.

“We discussed and didn’t have a team to talk to yet, and that happened this year. We talked to Stewart-Haas and Rick Ware Racing and tried to work out how it would work and whether it would work. Whether we could get the car in time and build the car for the races. It’s all been very quick how it’s all turned around, and I’m a Cup Series driver! So it’s been a fun couple of months, but it’s been very tight to get the car ready for Austin.”

The March 26 race at Circuit of the Americas was announced Thursday as the debut for Button, who also will be racing the Chicago Street Race and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The No. 15 Ford Mustang will be fielded by Rick Ware Racing in collaboration with Stewart-Haas Racing, which has a longstanding relationship with sponsor Mobil 1.

The schedule also makes sense for myriad reasons. Button will be one of 40 newcomers in the field for Chicago (which is scheduled to play host to the first street race in NASCAR Cup Series history). He also has F1 experience at COTA and the IMS road course (which was picked because his car wouldn’t be ready in time a week earlier for Watkins Glen International, where 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen made his debut last year).

Though he got hooked on watching stock cars as an 8-year-old enthralled with “Days of Thunder,” it’s the NASCAR shift toward road courses (several have been added in the past few years) that made Button believe he could race there.

“I thought it was insane,” Button said of watching the Tom Cruise vehicle from 1990. “Worlds away from European motorsport. That got me in the door of liking NASCAR. It’s so different from what I’m used to, that’s probably what stopped me asking the question of would I be able to race in NASCAR because it’s so different to anything I’ve driven before. Back then, it was more ovals, no street courses. That didn’t excite me so much because it’s another skillset all together. Now there are more road courses. It’s definitely more enticing. I think I’d be more competitive. I watch races and see new guys with experience in road course racing, and they don’t find it easy. It’s very difficult. But I think that’s part of the challenge and why I’m excited about it.”

In the past five years, NASCAR has raced on new road course with COTA, IMS, Road America, Daytona International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Many of the courses are familiar to casual fans and drivers from other series who are less accustomed to ovals.

“I’ve looked at NASCAR as super cool to watch, but I can’t really relate to it because it’s so different,” Button said. “I think because we have more road courses now, and you see the cars on road courses now, and they look like a handful. The racing is amazing, but it’s proper cool to watch. I think 10 to 15 years ago, you had a few guys good on the road courses. A lot of them hadn’t raced road courses, so it would be like me jumping into the Daytona 500 on an oval. I think that’s changed over time. Now you look at grid in the Cup Series, they’re all super talented on ovals and road courses. That’s added to the excitement for people watching. You see Kimi, (Le Mans winner) Joey Hand and see it is really competitive. That makes you think, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ You get even more excitement and interest in the sport, because there is such a high level of talent there.”

Button also has a new level of experience from joining the Garage 56 lineup with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller. The Hendrick Motorsports-fielded Chevrolet Camaro has tested at Daytona, Sebring International Raceway and COTA, providing Button with a new level of confidence that he can handle a Next Gen car in race conditions (even though the Cup car is much heavier and slower with less downforce).

Johnson also has been a guiding light for Button, who counts the seven-time Cup champion as a longtime friend.

“Jimmie has been very useful,” Button said. “Not just this but Garage 56. He’s driven stock cars his whole life. We all know how difficult it is to shift from open wheel high-downforce car to a stock car and vice versa. Jimmie has shown that the last couple of years. It’s tough. I think he did a bloody good job (in IndyCar the past two years). It just shows how difficult and different it is. He’s been really helpful.

I also spent a lot of time yesterday with the team getting to grips with the feeling of the car. It’s such an important thing. I can’t be sat up straight with the steering wheel here on my lap. I need to be sat back a bit more like a single-seater. And we found a position that works for me. If I have that, I’ll have a lot more feeling through the car and get to grips with it quicker.

“But the biggest point of contact the last four or five months has been Jimmie because we’ve worked together quite a bit on Garage 56, which is obviously very different. The Cup car is 8 seconds quicker a lap. But we’ve done three tests and been together all three. I think Jimmie has been the best, and I said to him, ‘What do you think (about the Cup ride)? Should I do it?”, and he said you definitely have to do it. You’ll have a blast. All right. I’m done. I’m in, so if Jimmie thinks it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be fun.”

Encouraged by the tales of Johnson’s daughters having fun at the track, Button plans to bring his wife and two children to COTA and said it’s “the family atmosphere that really got me” about NASCAR.

“I don’t want to be negative about Formula One because it is an amazing sport,” said Button, who lives in the Los Angeles area. “I’m an F1 world champ, so I’ve spent most of my life there. But you’re so focused. Your family doesn’t come to the races because your teams don’t really want them to be there because they know your focus is so important. It’s very tough because it’s your life. It’s everything. Everything you do is for Formula One. I did it for 17 years in this world where you forget about everything else. It’s all that matters is making you a better racing driver and Formula One driver.

“So when you step outside that, for me it’s exciting to do other things. With NASCAR, it’s a much more relaxed atmosphere. The racing is very serious. And these are some of the best drivers in the world, but the atmosphere outside the car and at the track, it’s a lot more relaxed and family-based category. That’s why we like it because it’s trying something different. We’ve done something the same for so many years, so to go and try something different is exciting.”

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Seattle


The final results from the Monster Energy Supercross race in Seattle suggests the season is turning into a two-rider battle as Eli Tomac scored his sixth win of the season to tie Cooper Webb for the points’ lead and Chase Sexton crashed in yet another race.

Tomac downplayed the neck strain that caused him to lose the red plate for two weeks, but without that holding him back, it would appear it might have been a bigger problem than he admitted. Despite finishing on the podium in Detroit, Tomac has not shown the late-race strength everyone has come to expect. He was in a slump after scoring a season-worst in Indianapolis and described his sixth win as a “bounce back”.

With this win, Tomac tied James Stewart for second on the all-time list with 50 career Supercross victories. Six rounds remain and there is no sign that Tomac is slowing down. Jeremy McGrath’s 72 wins remains untouchable, for the moment at least.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Overall Results; Click here for 250 Overall Results

Cooper Webb was disappointed with second-place, but he recognized the Supercross results at Seattle could have been much worse. He rode in fifth for the first nine laps of the race, behind Tomac and Sexton. When Sexton crashed from the lead and Tomac took the top spot, Webb knew he could not afford to give up that many points and so he dug deep and found enough points to share the red plate when the series returns in two weeks in Glendale, Arizona for a Triple Crown event.

Justin Barcia scored his third podium of the season, breaking out of a threeway tie of riders who have not been the presumed favorites to win the championship. Barcia scored the podium without drama or controversy. It was his fourth consecutive top-five and his 10th straight finish of eighth or better.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

Jason Anderson kept his perfect record of top-10s alive with a fourth-place finish. Tied for fourth in the standings and 49 out of the lead, his season has been like a death of a thousand cuts. He’s ridden exceptionally well, but the Big Three have simply been better.

Sexton rebounded from his fall to finish fifth. He entered the race 17 points out of the lead and lost another five in Seattle. Mistakes have cost Sexton 22 points in the last three races and that is precisely how far he is behind Tomac and Webb. Unless those two riders bobble, this deficit cannot overcome.

The rider who ties Anderson for fourth in the points, Ken Roczen finished just outside the top five in sixth after he battled for a podium position early in the race.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

The 250 West riders got back in action after four rounds of sitting on the sideline and Jett Lawrence picked up where he left of: in Victory Lane. Lawrence now has four wins and a second-place finish in five rounds. One simply doesn’t get close to perfection than that.

Between them, the Lawrence brothers have won all but two races though 11 rounds. Jett failed to win the Anaheim Triple Crown and Hunter Lawrence failed to win the Arlington Triple Crown format in the 250 East division. In two weeks, the series has their final Triple Crown race in Glendale. When he was reminded of this from the top of the Seattle podium, Jett replied, “oof”.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

RJ Hampshire finished second in the race and is second in the points. This is fourth time in five rounds that Hampshire finished second to Lawrence. If not for a crash-induced 11th-place finish in the Arlington Triple Crown, he would be much closer in the points standings. With that poor showing, he is 23 points behind Lawrence.

Cameron McAdoo made a lot of noise in his heat. Riding aggressively beside Larwence, the two crashed in the preliminary. McAdoo could never seem to get away from Hampshire in the Main and as the two battled, the leader got away. It would have been interesting to see how they would have raced head-to-head when points were on the line.

Click here for 250 Overall results | 250 West Rider Points | 250 Combined Rider Points

The Supercross results in Seattle were kind to a couple of riders on the cusp of the top five. Enzo Lopes scored his second top-five and fourth top-10 of the season after crossing the finish line fourth in Seattle.

Tying his best finish of the season for the third time, Max Vohland kept his perfect record of top-10s alive. Vohland is seventh in the points.

2023 Results

Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Tomac, H Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Tomac, J Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, J Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 10: Chase Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Cooper Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s