Raikkonen moves up the NASCAR ladder with respectable Nationwide Series debut

Between the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix – both packed with nail-biting action right to the finish line – there was no lack of excitement for racing fans this Memorial Day weekend. But open wheels weren't the only ones turning yesterday as NASCAR headed back to its heartland at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. And while the top-tier Sprint Cup was the headline event, our eyes were on the second-step Nationwide Series as Kimi Raikkonen made his next step up the stock-car racing ladder in the Top Gear 300.

Following his solid debut last week in the Camping World truck series, the former F1 champion turned rally driver took the next step up, driving the #87 Toyota Camry fielded by NEMCO Motorsports and prepared by the same Kyle Busch Motorsports with the same Perky Jerky sponsorship from his truck debut.

So how'd he do? Not bad. Not amazing, but not bad, considering this was only his second oval-track race, his second outing in a stock car and the first in the Nationwide Series. Kimi was up to fifteenth for much of the race, running on the lead lap and taking advantage of green-flag restarts to gain position. He struggled, however, with the car's front-end handling, as well as heat burning his feet inside the cockpit, and dropped down several laps after a series of disadvantageous trips to the pit lane – one for fresh fuel and rubber, one to remove debris from a crash and another to serve a drive-through penalty.

In the end Raikkonen finished 27th out of 43, running but four laps down on the race leaders. Sprint Cup drivers ended up dominating the race, with Matt Kenseth taking the checkered flag. So what's next for Kimi? Well he's back in the WRC next month for the Acropolis rally in Greece, but there's no telling when he might be back Stateside for more NASCAR action. The Sprint Cup road-course race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, could give Raikkonen a chance to shine, but his team fears there's precious little time to put it together with less than a month to go.

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