Button battles ’emotional rollercoaster’ on NASCAR debut

Jenson Button saw it all on his NASCAR debut on Sunday in COTA, but the Briton survived a chaotic race and his own “emotional rollercoaster” to cross the checkered flag 18th at the end of the day.

Button qualified P24 at the wheel of his Rick Ware Racing Mustang, just two spots behind fellow F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

But from the outset, both drivers struggled to contend with the door banging and commotion, with the pair also opted for different strategies.

A timely pit stop in the closing stages of a race that went into triple overtime followed by a safety car propelled Raikkonen all the way up to fourth. But again the Finn was outdone by a succession of shunts and cautions, and also a spin that pushed the Trackhouse Team charger down to 29th at the end of the day.

Button acquitted himself well during the chaos, rising finally to 18th, over nine seconds behind winner Tyler Reddick.

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“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” admitted Button when all was said and don. “

“First, it was terrible, I mean, I must’ve been last by the end of it. And I was just like, ‘Everyone: Go. I just need to drive and find a rhythm.’ I’ve never gone through a corner two wide, so often.

“And trying to place my car in the right place – I just got it wrong every time. Normally, if you’re a little bit slow through a corner, nobody tries to overtake you from the outside, because they’re not going to make it all the way on the next one.

“But here they do, because they get a wheel inside for the next one, and if you turn in, you turn around.”

    Read also: Button enjoying NASCAR learning curve: ‘It’s so much fun!’

Button admitted that his first stint had been “really bad”.

“it was embarrassing for me. I was like, ‘All right guys, we need to pit, freshen the tyres and I need some air – I need some fresh air.’ I got that. The pace was good, consistency was good. I was really happy, and passed a few cars which was nice.

“We got a little bit unlucky with the safety car because it was just two laps before our window. Pitted, then the next stint was mayhem.

“We also made a couple of changes that just didn’t work. Big oversteer – went from the car feeling great to really difficult to drive.”

Button confessed that the heat inside his Mustang coupled with the intensity of the race almost led to him parking his car and calling it day.

“Finished 18th after almost stopping because I had heat exhaustion,” he explained.

“It was so hot, I don’t have a fan in my seat which really didn’t help me too much. It was so hot, I thought I was going to faint in the car. So, I stopped twice for a minute.

“They put ice on me, gave me loads of water, and I went back out. I was so close to getting out of the car because I thought I was going to faint. I must’ve drank eight (or) nine bottles of water during the race.

“The team kept me calm, and it’s the reason why we got a good result in the end. So, I was happy.”

Button will enjoy his second of three outings with Rick Ware Racing at the Chicago Street Course race on July 2nd.

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