Jenson Button’s boyhood fascination with the Hollywood movie ‘Days of Thunder’ sparked his passion for stock cars and the former Formula 1 Champion will live out a childhood dream when he returns to the starting grid for three NASCAR Cup races.
The 1990 high-octane, fender-banging blockbuster starring Tom Cruise was Button’s introduction to the world of stock car racing and when Rick Ware Racing offered him a chance to be part of the action driving their Mobil 1 Ford Mustang he grabbed it.
The Briton, 43, will begin his NASCAR adventure on March 26 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas and then compete in the inaugural Chicago Street Race on July 2 before racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on Aug. 13.
“Growing up in the UK we had four channels on TV back in the late 80s and we didn’t get any real sport outside of European sport so it was Days of Thunder that actually first of all brought me to NASCAR,” Button said during a media call.
“It was the first time I got to see any NASCAR. It was a movie and as an eight-year-old I thought it was insane, I thought it was amazing, worlds away from European motorsport.”
He will be joined on the starting grid at the Circuit of the Americas by Finland’s 2007 F1 Champion Kimi Raikkonen, while Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Champion, has also raced in NASCAR, including at the Daytona 500.
Button not ruling out more than the planned three races
While Button has not yet turned a single lap in NASCAR, he is not ruling out the possibility of a longer term commitment and taking on the challenge of high-speed ovals, including one of motorsport’s marquee events the Daytona 500.
“There is always a possibility I guess but it is all down to performance,” said Button. “It doesn’t matter what I’ve done previously. If they (races) don’t go well then it’s not going to go well for 2024 in terms of getting a drive for a full season.
“If I like the championship, if I like the car, I think it’s fun and enjoyable and I can be competitive, there is always that possibility.”
Button retired from F1 in 2017 but has not been idling on the sidelines. He drove sports cars in the Japanese Super GT Series and has also raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Button will be back at Le Mans this year when NASCAR joins the French endurance race with its “Garage 56” entry and a driver lineup that also includes seven-times Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
Button said it was Johnson who helped persuade him to get involved with NASCAR telling him it would be “fun”.
“If Jimmie thinks it is going to be fun, it’s going to be fun,” Button said with a laugh. “The atmosphere is great and that’s what I really love about NASCAR.
“It’s the family atmosphere that really got me,” Button said. “Don’t get me wrong the racing is very serious and these are some of the best drivers in the world, but the atmosphere outside the car, the atmosphere at the track is more relaxed.” (Reporting by Steve Keating)