"Iceman" Kimi Raikkonen kept his cool during his NASCAR debut on Friday night, turning in a solid, clean 15th-place finish in the Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Now, it appears, he may already have his sights set on moving up the NASCAR ladder.
After the 2007 Formula One world champion displayed poise throughout Friday's event (despite brushing the wall twice), he acknowledged afterward that "it was more fun than I expected."
Race winner Kyle Busch, Raikkonen's team owner, acknowledged there was a Toyota Nationwide Series car in the Kyle Busch Motorsports shop – but insisted he didn't own it. For now, it's a mystery as to who does.
Raikkonen, for his part, said "We'll see" when asked about running next week's Nationwide event at Charlotte, but also made a reference to the Truck race being "quite far away to come from Europe."
Does that mean he'll stick around North Carolina for another week?
Either way, Raikkonen's debut was extremely respectable for first-timer. Aside from a couple of Truck tests, he had zero experience in NASCAR and had never seen a 1.5-mile oval before Friday.
"I mean, you'd rather be more high up (in finishing order)," he said after the race. "But I think how it felt this morning and qualifying (a disappointing 31st), I'm pretty pleased how it was in the race. I think for sure there's still a lot to learn. But I didn't really have any major issues."
Crew chief Rick Ren said he'd heard (as many people had) that Raikkonen had a reputation for not being talkative. But the driver gave three group media interviews on Friday as well as separate TV and radio interviews, and did well in communicating with his spotter (also something he wasn't used to) and the team as a whole.
"He does everything you ask him to do," Ren said. "This is a tough racetrack – so I can't believe he (wouldn't be) pleased with coming out of here 15th in his first race. I'm pleased for him, just because I know how difficult it is here."
Ren was particularly impressed with Raikkonen's ability to not spin the tires on restarts – he was floored, in fact, that someone new to NASCAR wouldn't make that mistake.
"I was like, 'Wow, this guy is good on restarts,'" Ren said. "I was really surprised. Some guys can race for years and never learn restarts."
Interestingly enough, Raikkonen cited restarts as his weak point. He didn't have enough experience to figure out where to put his car on the restarts yet, he said – though he expected he'd figure it out with time.
Before the race, Ren gave Raikkonen a crash course in everything NASCAR – from caution lights to the flags to pit stops to what happens if he gets into an accident – and said the driver "grasped it very well."
It showed. The driver was completely involved in race strategy throughout the event – telling Ren that he wanted track position instead of a pit stop on the first caution – and displayed a quick grasp of the racing.
Raikkonen indicated it didn't take long before he was comfortable in the car – and in the garage.
"Everybody's been very nice and very welcome," he said. "It's a nice atmosphere, very relaxed. It's been good."