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An ex-F1 racer’s ‘three-hour bar struggle’ in NASCAR

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Having contested 24 Method 1 grand prix for McLaren and Stewart through the Nineties, Jan Magnussen is not any stranger to the motorsport limelight. However the Dane admits that he tried to go beneath the radar for a one-off NASCAR Cup Sequence look at Sonoma in 2010, which he describes as a “improbable expertise”.

Regardless of a powerful junior single-seater profession which included prestigious wins on the 1992 Method Ford Competition and a record-breaking British Method 3 title success in 1994, his time in grand prix racing was short-lived and yielded however a single level on his ultimate outing on the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix.

However a transfer into sportcars reignited his profession, first proving his class alongside David Brabham at Panoz earlier than a swap to Corvette Racing allowed him to flourish with 4 Le Mans 24 Hours class wins between 2004 and 2009.

Archive: How F1-exile Magnussen made the switch to sportscars 

It additionally paved the way in which for additional alternatives in America and finally his memorable NASCAR cameo, the place he completed twelfth.

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Alongside his commitments within the American Le Mans Sequence, Magnussen had been working with NASCAR’s high Common Motors outfit Hendrick Motorsports to develop highway course set-ups and “as a bonus” was given the possibility to compete in a race aboard a fifth Chevrolet fielded by sister squad Phoenix Racing.

“The automobiles are heavy with massive, gentle tyres, and a stiff rear axle,” remembers Magnussen of the automotive’s traits. “It simply takes a special driving fashion, you’ve obtained to be tremendous affected person with every part you do.

“However there’s a lot energy, 850-900 horsepower or one thing. Unbelievable! [It had] 4 gears, nevertheless it felt like with that quantity of energy you simply decide a gear you want.”

Magnussen loved the large energy of the under-gripped inventory automobiles

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Regardless of having to adapt to the automotive, Magnussen had excessive expectations of himself heading to the sixteenth spherical of that 12 months’s championship on the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway. It was a monitor he knew nicely from ALMS exploits – having memorably gained there with the Panoz in 2002, he and Brabham beating the vastly superior Audi R8 of Tom Kristensen and Johnny Herbert by lower than half a second.

“The testing had gone very well and I had actually excessive hopes, I assumed I can do nicely right here,” he says. “However the way in which you get ready for a race weekend is kind of completely different from the rest I’ve skilled earlier than. The quantity of operating may be very restricted.”

The now 48-year-old might solely qualify thirty second on the 43-car grid. However with 110 laps of racing to return, he knew there could be alternative aplenty to stand up the order by merely staying out of hassle as these round him grew to become embroiled in NASCAR’s inevitable push-and-shove.

“I made a plan instantly from tales that I’d heard, I want to remain under the radar for so long as potential,” he says. “The opposite guys that had been there only for the highway course race had been being super-aggressive to start with and so they did get forward of me – however they quickly obtained worn out by the locals!

“I knew it was solely going to be the highway programs, so I did extra testing after that – however clearly my calendar at the moment was fairly booked so sadly no extra got here out of it” Jan Magnussen

“There’s a lot happening the entire time, it was like a bar room struggle for 3 hours.”

One other driver making his NASCAR debut that weekend was two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom, who Magnussen admitted he was measuring himself towards – and finally beat, after the Swede was spun out by Brad Keselowski.

Magnussen’s race additionally wasn’t with out incident, as he made contact with Carl Edwards 4 laps from residence which despatched the incensed 2008 sequence runner-up right into a spin.

“He had me in a stranglehold after the race,” laughs Magnussen. “I obtained pushed into him, nevertheless it was nonetheless me that hit him. I obtained pushed into him proper after his spotter had instructed my spotter that they had been racing for factors. However my spotter instructed his spotter that we weren’t…”

Ekstrom got ahead of Magnussen but the Dane finished ahead after the DTM champion ruffled a few feathers

Ekstrom obtained forward of Magnussen however the Dane completed forward after the DTM champion ruffled a number of feathers

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Whereas Magnussen may very well be happy together with his day’s work, his efforts in growing highway course set-ups with Hendrick had additionally confirmed its price as Jimmie Johnson took victory, whereas Jeff Gordon completed fifth. With all 5 Hendrick-affiliated automobiles inside the highest 15 finishers, Magnussen says his one-off outing was mutually useful to all.

“My team-mates had been Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson, like 10-11 championships proper there [at the time],” he says.

“They had been all nice, however Dale Earnhardt Jr was improbable to work with. So thoughtful and actually appreciated no matter assist I might carry. Hendrick Motorsports was nice, an unbelievable staff.”

Magnussen continued working with the staff by the remainder of the season with the intention to do extra highway programs, however his clashing sportscar schedule prevented any additional NASCAR outings.

“I hoped to do extra,” he says. “I knew it was solely going to be the highway programs, so I did extra testing after that – however clearly my calendar at the moment was fairly booked so sadly no extra got here out of it.

“However NASCAR is among the coolest experiences I’ve had.”

Strong finish for Hendrick team vindicated Magnussen's set-up work, but he didn't get another race opportunity

Sturdy end for Hendrick staff vindicated Magnussen’s set-up work, however he did not get one other race alternative

Picture by: Motorsport Images

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