Jenson Button: One Race on the Calendar

Jenson Button: One Race on the Calendar is by our Fan4Racing contributor Brian Eberly, He is covering NASCAR’s inaugural Chicago Street Race.

Suffice it to say there is no lack of chatter when it comes to the stars and cars of NASCAR taking to the Windy City’s most infamous streets amid a holiday weekend filled with tourists and traffic. And when it comes to the course layout, it’s very narrow, tight, and bumpy, and has certainly resulted in some sleepless nights for drivers, crew chiefs, and engineers. Not to mention NASCAR and city officials that have been working tirelessly to ensure this first-of-its-kind event is a success.

Jenson Button: One Race on the Calendar

And while we will all differ on what will ultimately define this weekend as a success, 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button defined it best in a recent Ford Performance media availability.

“It’s just one race on the calendar.”

Button heads to Chicago not far removed from competing with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller in the NASCAR Garage 56 program that delivered the sights and sounds of NASCAR to race fans from around the world as NASCAR returned to Le Mans for the first time since 1976.

“I think this will definitely bring in a different fanbase. I know that true NASCAR fans might think it’s a bit of an unusual type of track, so why do we bother with it? But, why not? I think it’s great that they’re willing to attract something different, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” said Button, who will make just his second career NASCAR Cup Series start in Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

“I love that we’re trying new things, just like taking a stock car to Le Mans – amazing. What a great opportunity, and I think it brought in a very different fanbase. I think this will do something similar.”

Circuit of the Americas was Jenson Button’s Debut in the NASCAR Cup Series

Button made his inaugural foray into the land of NASCAR earlier this year, piloting the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford to a respectable 18th-place result, picking up six positions from his starting spot at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

“I think for half the race at COTA, I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this again.’ But for the other half of the race, I thought, ‘This is awesome, just awesome.’

“I feel I had more wheel-to-wheel action in the first lap of the race at COTA than I do in a whole Grand Prix. So, loads of emotions – positive and negative – at COTA.”

Street Race Experience is a Bonus in the Chicago

At Chicago, Button will be one of the few drivers with street-course experience with 34 street-course starts in his 18-year F1 career, winning the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix.

“Every street course I’ve done, whatever I’ve raced in, has been tight and twisty. It is what it is. You deal with it. When you look at IndyCar, which raced in Detroit, it was the tightest track that I’d ever seen. But, it was a great race. So, I think we can put on a great show. I think that’s what this race is going to be about, really. It’s going to be a big learning curve for everyone.

“There’s no room for error. You can’t dive into corners, make a mistake and then the next lap around, take it a little bit easier because you’ll be in the wall with a damaged car. So, I think in terms of what the teams and drivers do over the race weekends, it’s very different from normal.

“It’s going to be building up to a good lap time, and come the race, we can’t drive like we did at COTA (Circuit of The Americas), because none of us will get around Turn 1. I think there needs to be a little more respect for the circuit, as well as the other cars.”

The Chicago Street Race Has a Unique Variable

There is a plethora of variables when it comes to the 2.2-mile, 12-turn street circuit, with one of them being unique to the Windy City.

“There are two bridges we go over, which is going to be the trickiest situation because we’re braking as we go over those bridges. The rear end is going to be going wide. People are going to be brave if they try to overtake there.”

One More NASCAR Cup Series Start this Season

Button will fire the engine on a Cup car one more time in 2023 when he runs the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. But what will the future hold for his racing endeavors?

“I didn’t think I’d want to do a full season again, because of how busy the schedule always is, but I feel I’ll be racing in something next year, doing a full season. I need to balance a few things, as I’ve been very busy this year. But, it will be in endurance racing which will be in either IMSA or WEC.