Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Jenson Button on NASCAR Indy: “It’d be nice just to get a finish”

Jenson Button was one of two Formula One alumni in the NASCAR Cup Series field on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway alongside newcomer Kamui Kobayashi, while his 24 Hours of Le Mans team-mate Mike Rockenfeller was also taking part. Unfortunately, familiar faces did not translate into an easier third career Cup race as penalties and a shunt relegated him to twenty-eighth and a lap behind winner Michael McDowell.

“It’d be nice just to get a finish,” said Button. “The pace is there. It’s just that I made mistakes today. The car was working well.”

After qualifying thirty-first, which he described as “frustrating just because we didn’t have any pace,” his Rick Ware Racing team “did a really good job of finding a setup that worked for me.” However, he sped on pit road after completing his first stop on lap fourteen, forcing him to serve a drive-through penalty. It was his second straight race with a pit gaffe after getting spun by Chris Buescher while preparing for his stop in Chicago.

On lap 59, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun Button in the turn thirteen chicane. Button repaid the favour by bumping him aside going into turn seven six laps later. While that was the last of their clashes, Stenhouse got into Kobayashi moments later after missing the braking zone and punting him wide into turn one to complete a sweep of the F1 drivers in the field.

He later tried to pass Kevin Harvick in turn one, but locked up his brakes and missed the corner, receiving another penalty.

“Today, I could brake later, so I could make a lot of moves,” he continued. “I can’t imagine how many cars I actually overtook during the race. But at the end of the first pit stop, I was speeding into pit lane, so I had to do a drive-through. Kills your race, about thirty seconds in pit lane, it sets you back a lot, and then when I made a move on someone, I think Stenhouse Jr., he spun me around and it costed me a bit more time. It wasn’t great.

“Then pushing to the end to chase down Kevin, I locked up and went straight across the grass in turn one, so had to do a stop-and-go. It was mess, but the pace was there. It was really good. I think we had the third or fourth quickest lap of the race. Went really well. Just a disappointing result. I enjoyed it. Lots of overtaking, wheel-to-wheel banging as you could probably see by the car.”

Button has had an up-and-down tenure in NASCAR. His début at Circuit of the Americas in March, a track he is familiar with due to F1, ended with an eighteenth-place run after surviving a chaotic final stage. He never recovered from his spin in Chicago and placed twenty-first.

Indianapolis is his last scheduled race in RWR’s #15, though he has not ruled out competing on ovals in the future if he enjoys the discipline.

Kobayashi finished thirty-third while Rockenfeller was twenty-fourth.