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Kobayashi to make NASCAR Debut

Written By Hugh Waring, edited by Janvi Unni

Image: Nascar.com


Renowned sports-car driver Kamui Kobayashi is set to make his NASCAR debut for 23XI Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on August 13. The announcement was made at the NASCAR display at Le Mans, France, with several dignitaries, including NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France, in attendance.


Kobayashi, who is currently competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota Gazoo Racing, expressed his excitement about exploring a new motorsports discipline in NASCAR. As a two-time champ in FIA World Endurance Championship competition, he has already achieved two wins this season. Kobayashi acknowledged the cultural differences between NASCAR and motorsports in Japan and Europe, describing NASCAR as the "American dream" for drivers.


The 36-year-old Japanese driver will pilot the No. 67 Toyota Camry TRD, which will be a third entry alongside 23XI Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace. This marks the second time 23XI Racing has fielded a third car, following Travis Pastrana's 11th-place finish in this year's Daytona 500.


Kobayashi's NASCAR debut not only makes him the second Japanese driver to enter a Cup Series race but also the first to do so in a Toyota. Hideo Fukuyama previously made four Cup starts between 2002 and 2003, while other Japanese drivers have participated in Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series events. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA president David Wilson highlighted the significance of having a global driver like Kobayashi in NASCAR, as it brings attention and expands the sport's reach.


Kobayashi's racing career has been diverse, starting with karting and progressing to Formula 1 with Toyota. Currently, he competes in the Supra Formula Series alongside his sports-car commitments. Although he has no experience driving a stock car, Kobayashi expressed his enthusiasm for the unique challenges NASCAR presents. He appreciates the close racing and the driver's influence on the outcome.


Kobayashi joins a growing list of newcomers from other racing series who have recently tried their hand at NASCAR. Notable examples include former F1 champions Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen, as well as sports-car standout Jordan Taylor, who raced at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas in late March.


The Japanese driver said: “Actually, I like this type of racing because you bump each other all the time, and you have to be very sharp on the start, otherwise, you lose all the momentum, and you’re going backwards, and you have no chance, I think the way they race is different, but I like it because I think this is something the driver brings instead of the car bringing something.”


“I will try my best, but I’m very thankful for this opportunity and happy to be in this position. For Toyota and for the entire family, I think this will create something new for us. Now we have to finalize all the small details, but at the end of the day, I think a strong performance would help with future possibilities.”


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