If you ask Kevin Magnussen about NASCAR, and he just has an ear to ear smile.
Gene Haas’ latest Formula One recruit is well aware of his boss’ championship stock car teams. The 24-year-old Dane, who replaced Esteban Gutierrez as Haas F1’s second driver, was in the US this week to see Haas’ holdings up close.
On Wednesday, Magnussen flew to Haas Automation headquarters in Oxnard, California where he sat behind the wheel of a Monster Energy Cup car on display but “unfortunately” couldn’t take it for a spin.
“It’s extremely cool,” Magnussen said of the stock car. “But it’s not easy to get in. It’s nice because I grew up in motorsport, and you think you know everything, and then you come over here and you see those cars and it’s very different.”
Magnussen then flew to North Carolina to tour Haas F1 Team’s U.S.-base and Stewart-Haas Racing next door.
“It’s very old-school racing but then extremely high-technology as well,” Magnussen said of the NASCAR operation. “There’s just as much science behind those cars as our cars, but still it’s very different.”
It didn’t take long for Magnussen to express his interest in driving a stock car in the future. But before he could even think about following his father Jan’s footsteps from F1 to NASCAR, Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner applied the brakes.
“At the moment, let’s focus on what we’re doing,” Steiner said. “You have to do it right, or you don’t do it. These things need to be done right. They cannot just be winged with this level of people.
“Everybody needs to get prepared for the season, then we’ll see how we fall into it. We may consider it again. But at the moment, we just have to get as ready as possible for Australia and do a good job there.”
Steiner isn’t saying never. Romain Grosjean was excited about the possibility of racing a stock car when he signed on last year. But Steiner admits Haas F1 teams have to show progress before the organization can even contemplate swapping drivers.
“It’s so difficult because of the schedule that these guys have got,” explained Steiner. “It’s like if we commit to something, we have to do a few tests and we have to manage it money-wise, but the main reason we don’t focus on it is because we need to get better in F1. We want to get better in F1 than we did last year.”
Magnussen missed his father’s only Cup start in 2010. Jan, who in addition to racing sports cars and testing for General Motors, piloted the No. 09 HendrickCars.com Chevy with Phoenix Racing at Sonoma Raceway. He finished 12th in his debut.
However, the father-and-son duo took in the All-Star race last year at Charlotte Motor Speedway. What impressed Magnussen most at the time was the tricked up qualifying format.
“That was cool,” Magnussen said. “To have the pit crew in the qualifying was really cool. I think perhaps Formula One could learn something from that kind of format. It was pretty intense.”
Magnussen first interviewed with Haas and Steiner at Monza in 2015. Haas F1’s ability to acclimate quickly to the series is what drew him to the team. Rather than party away the off-season, Magnussen remained in Denmark where he worked on strength-training in anticipation of the new F1 cars.
After three years with three different teams, Magnussen is hoping to make the most of his time with Haas.
“I’m in a great place right now,” Magnussen said. “I have a really great opportunity to take myself to an even better place with Haas. So, I’m just really grateful for the opportunity I have right now.
“Every time you’re in the car you have something to prove. This is F1. It’s a very high pressure environment. Of course, you have to deliver because there’s a thousand drivers that want your job. It’s part of the game and part of the job.”
Perhaps if Magnussen proves himself, Steiner’s stance on allowing his drivers to run a few one-offs in NASCAR might soften.
“It’s definitely something I’d like to have a go at one day,” Magnussen said. “Formula 1 is my only focus. But I’m a passionate motorsports fan as well, so NASCAR or any other form of motorsport, turns me on.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!