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After a successful test session last week, there’s a strong possibility that two-time DTM Champ Mattias Ekström will race at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on June 20th at Sonoma, California. And he’ll be driving a Toyota no less.
Ekström races for the Red Bull Audi team in Germany’s premiere DTM series, but recently filled in for the Red Bull Toyota NASCAR team when it was announced that No. 83 driver Brian Vickers would miss the rest of the season due to a medical issue.
During the test, Ekstrom impressed the Red Bull Racing USA team, getting up to speed in just an hour – despite the significantly heavier Sprint Cup car, which features a significant lack of aerodynamics.
The Sonoma race is one of the few road-course events on the NASCAR schedule – which would certainly favor a road-course driver like Ekstrom. In addition, we have to think that the tie-up between Audi and Infineon Raceway (the Sonoma road course) would play into the decision to let Ekstrom drive.
Ekström holds two DTM championships (2004 and 2007) with 14 wins in 95 starts. He has even won the Race of Champions twice, both times taking down Michael Schumacher.
Here’s a story that is certainly going to get the rumors of Volkswagen‘s involvement in NASCAR started. Last week two-time DTM Champion Mattias Ekström was at Virginia International Raceway helping test a Red Bull Racing Toyota for the upcoming NASCAR race at Sonoma.
The reason for the odd match isn’t about NASCAR ambitions says Audi, but rather a driver’s dream and a sponsors request. That’s right, Red Bull Racing is the main sponsor for the No. 82 and No. 83 Toyotas in NASCAR, as well as the main sponsor for Ekstrom’s Audi DTM car. No. 83 driver Brian Vickers was ill and the car still needed to be tested, and according to Audi, Red Bull Racing USA remembered Ekstrom’s interest in NASCAR and made the request to Audi Sport.
“It’s no secret that the NASCAR series fascinates me and that it’s been a long-harbored dream of mine to drive such a car,” said Mattias Ekström, commenting after the test that, “The first hour of the test I was fighting the car a lot just getting used to the power, the weight and the fact that the car has little aero — all things that are very different for me. A few hours into the test I felt a lot more comfortable in the car and overall I think we had a really good test. I came into this test not having any experience in these types of cars, and also having never worked with the No. 83 team before, so it was really nice to see how well we all worked together. I really enjoyed my first Sprint Cup test and am glad to have had this opportunity.”
Er…. did he just say “first” test? We think so. Gentlemen, start your rumors.
[Source: Audi and RedBullRacingUSA.com]
Official release after the jump: