Kvyat “couldn’t see anything cooler than NASCAR” after F1 departure

The ex-Red Bull and Toro Rosso F1 racer will make his Cup Series debut this weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, driving a second entry for the part-time organisation Team Hezeberg.

The current plan is for Kvyat to run all three remaining road courses on the 2022 Cup schedule – Indy on Sunday, then at Watkins Glen on 21 August and the Charlotte Roval on 9 October.

“I want to give a lot of energy to NASCAR now, to give myself the best shot at becoming very competitive,” he told Autosport on Tuesday. “I wanted to start with something really cool after my Formula 1 career.

“After Formula 1, I couldn’t see anything cooler than NASCAR, that’s for sure.”

In February, Kvyat signed for G-Drive Racing in the World Endurance Championship to make his debut in the sportscar arena including the Le Mans 24 Hours.

However, the team then pulled out following the FIA laying down criteria for Russian competitors following the invasion of Ukraine, leaving him on the sidelines so far in 2022.

Daniil Kvyat, Team Hezeberg

In the few weeks that Kvyat, 28, has been in the United States, he has fully immersed himself in the NASCAR culture.

He has turned laps in a Late Model car at Hickory Motor Speedway with the help of driver/owner Josh Reaume, visited the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord to receive his approval to compete, and spent time picking up and delivering parts in the Mooresville area as his team assembled the #27 Toyota in which he will compete.

“NASCAR Cup Series has a very rich history and is extremely popular in the United States and also worldwide,” he said. “I think it has managed to maintain this very good balance between modern and old-school racing.

“It made me very curious to try it. It’s very tough racing. There are tough guys racing at a very high level. For a few years I’ve been trying to try it and finally I got an opportunity here.”

Kvyat, a native of Ufa, Russia, debuted in Formula 1 for Toro Rosso at the start of the 2014 season, at the age of 19 years old. Following a successful 2014 season, Kvyat was promoted to Red Bull Racing for the 2015 season.

His first podium came at the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix, becoming the second-youngest driver to claim a podium finish at age 21. He continued in the Red Bull driver program until 2020, finishing his F1 career at Alpine as a reserve driver in 2021.

Kvyat said he is not just “testing the waters” when it comes to a NASCAR career – he plans to do whatever it takes to compete in the Cup Series full-time.

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri AT01

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri AT01

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“Whatever I do, I try to do with the maximum competitive approach,” he said. “I’m a competitive person and I want to achieve strong results here.

“I’m open-minded to racing on the oval tracks and trying to make this transition. I really want to race for the highest results and one day fight for the championship here.”

Kvyat said he has watched enough NASCAR events, whether in person or on TV or YouTube videos, to know the Cup series can be rough, particularly on newcomers.

“I always was a big fan of contact racing,” he said. “I’ve never had issues putting my elbows out and I don’t think I would have any problems with that in NASCAR, either. I’m used to that – I kind of enjoy that.”

While Kvyat said he would “never say never” to a return to Formula 1, he believes at this stage of his career he is “quite focused” on NASCAR.

“I think there are a lot of good things I can make of it here if I put my focus here,” he said. “Of course, what other opportunities might be in Formula 1, it can be open for discussion. But right now I am making my NASCAR Cup debut and I am giving all my energy to that at the moment.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C38, leads Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso STR14

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C38, leads Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso STR14

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Kvyat will have the opportunity to race against another former Formula 1 star at Watkins Glen, when 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen will make his Cup Series debut. 

Raikkonen will be driving for Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project 91 initiative, which is designed to attract top international stars to NASCAR competition.

“My old, old friend,” Kvyat said with a laugh. “I know Kimi from Formula 1, obviously. He’s an interesting character. I’m quite excited that both of us will be sharing the grid in NASCAR.

“I think it’s great for NASCAR to get involved more and more internationally. With former Formula 1 names, it just shows how competitive this series is getting. He’s a fair driver; a very strong driver.

“It’s going to be great to see him again there.”