A brief top four cameo from Kimi Raikkonen and a praiseworthy 18th-place finish for Jenson Button were the headlines of the two Formula 1 world champions’ very respectable NASCAR Cup Series appearances at Austin.
Raikkonen was returning to the Trackhouse team with which he impressed at last season’s Watkins Glen race while Button was making the first of three planned appearances in a Rick Ware Racing car entered with assistance from Stewart-Haas Racing.
They qualified well in mid-grid, starting 22nd and 24th (Raikkonen ahead) in the 39-car field, though holding position among the experienced stock car drivers when the door-banging began proved slightly harder.
While Raikkonen was among the many cars to initially commit to a potential three-stop strategy, Button stayed out longer and spent a few early laps in the top 15.
Their paths crossed around half-distance after Raikkonen’s second stop, before both joined nearly the entire field in pitting under yellow on lap 41 of the planned 68 to get on the same strategy, battling with Justin Haley and Aric Almirola just outside the top 25 thereafter.
Serious fuel-saving was required to get to the finish from there without another pitstop, and Raikkonen’s Trackhouse team was among those who bailed out early and pitted again. That paid off as a caution came out immediately afterwards, allowing Raikkonen to rise to fourth as most of the rest of the field pitted.
But the final laps of the race descended into a succession of multi-car shunts and cautions, and eventually three attempts to get the race finished under the overtime rules.
Raikkonen was in the thick of it, helping Ryan Blaney into a Turn 1 spin at one restart, getting elbowed out wide by spinning cars at another, and later having a spin of his own before eventually finishing 27th.
Button moved in the opposite direction amid all that chaos, rising to his eventual 18th place.
Tyler Reddick broke clear at the final restart to win for the 23XI team, ahead of Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and two of his main race-long lead rivals in Ross Chastain and William Byron.
IMSA star Jordan Taylor had qualified a stunning fourth while standing in for the injured Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports but had a bruising run to 24th.
IndyCar racer Conor Daly was an early retirement.