Jenson Button will be adding to his racing resume this season. The 2009 F1 world champion will make his NASCAR debut at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas on March 26. He will than race at the inaugural Chicago Street Race on July 2 and finish his three-race schedule in August at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
The British driver will race a Ford Mustang fielded by Rick Ware Racing with the marketing support by Stewart-Haas Racing. The RWR RWR and SHR collaboration was used in the past after the teams formed an alliance for 2022 that was announced late in 2021.
Button won 15 Formula 1 races including 6 in 2009 the same year he won the F1 world driving title. He made 306 career starts in F1 with his final F1 start being the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix when he subbed for Fernando Alonso, who skipped Monaco to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Button’s last fulltime F1 season was 2016.
He retired from F1 in 2017 but continued to race moving to the Japanese Super GT GT Series’ GT500 class winning the championship there in 2018. He also competed in the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’s also competed in off-road endurance racing entering the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000 in 2019.
“The reason I was able to stay in Formula 1 for so long was because I always felt I was learning,” Button said. “There was always something new in terms of technologies, or I could still improve my driving or engineering skills within Formula One. When I got to my 17th year in F1, I felt like I lost that hunger a little bit because it wasn’t new anymore. There wasn’t something new to learn.
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“Stepping away from F1 gave me the opportunity to try different series that excited me. I raced Super GT in Japan. I raced at Le Mans. I raced off-road because it was another skill to learn. You put yourself in a slightly vulnerable position because it’s not your complete skill set, and there’s still more to learn to be as good as the best. I love that challenge of driving new things. It’s slightly out of my comfort zone, and I found that out with off-road trucks.”
Button’s most recent racing endeavor gave him a taste of NASCAR. Button joined Jimmie Johnson and former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller as part of the Garage 56 driver lineup. The modified NASCAR Next Gen car will be entered in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The car has undergone extensive testing on the road course at Daytona International Speedway last month followed by a full 24 our test at Sebring.
“The first time I jumped into the Garage 56 car, it was like, ‘What have I done? This is so different,’ and that lasted about four laps,” Button said. “Then it was like, ‘Hang on, it’s still a racecar. It’s got four tires that touch the road. It’s a mechanical racecar, which is even better for learning.’ I’ve really enjoyed the challenge,” said Button, who has now tested the Garage 56 car at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and earlier this week at COTA.
“A Cup car has a lot less downforce and is a lot heavier, but the Garage 56 car has given me an idea of what it will be like along with a direction, which is really useful. I know in my first race I’m not expected to be qualifying right at the front and I’m not expected to be fighting for a victory. I have a lot of respect for the drivers racing in the Cup Series. There’s so much talent there, whether it’s on ovals or road courses.”
The sponsorship for the effort will come from longtime SHR partner Mobil 1. The company has also been a longtime partner with Button and all his racing efforts.
“Our love for racing at Mobil 1 runs deep, and we’re proud to compete and play a role in so many different series,” said Jei Gort, global motorsports and sponsorships manager, on behalf of Mobil 1. “This partnership with Jenson intersects two of racing’s most prominent series – NASCAR and F1 – and we’re very excited to be a part of his pursuit for success in NASCAR’s premier division. Through our collaboration, we aim to further celebrate the love of driving and elevate the passion for motorsports.”
Button isn’t setting his NASCAR expectations too high.
“The most important thing for me is to enjoy it,” Button said. “I want to feel comfortable in the car knowing that I can get as much out of the car in any situation as other people out on track. The result is the result, and we’ll see what happens, but I want to get the confidence to brake as late as I’d like, to carry the speed through the high-speed corners, and to be able to race close – wheel-to-wheel with the pack.”
One driver who can relate to racing in different motorsports disciplines is SHR co-owner Tony Stewart. Stewart is a three-time NASCAR champion, the 1997 IndyCar Series champion, and is racing in the NHRA fulltime this season. He has even driven a Formula 1 car famously doing a seat swap orchestrated by Mobil 1 with Liew Hamilton at Watkins Glen in 2011.
“It’s always a challenge to try a new racing discipline, and the best thing you can bring to a new opportunity like this is an open mind,” said Stewart. “Jenson has been doing that his entire career. Those F1 cars evolve every year, and Jenson always found a way to adapt. And when he got out of F1, he jumped into sports cars and won another championship. He’s even done off-road. There’s very little that he hasn’t experienced in a racecar. He’s new to NASCAR, but he’s not new to racing. This is going to be fun for all of us, and we’re very appreciative of Mobil 1 for making it happen.”
Jenson’s first NASCAR weekend will start on Saturday, March 25 at COTA with practice and qualifying. The 68-lap race around the 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course gets underway at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
“We are thrilled to celebrate Jenson Button as he makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series and support him on his journey to making one of his racing dreams a reality,” said Rob Shearer, Director of global lubricants marketing services, on behalf of Mobil 1.