Ex-F1 driver Kobayashi to make NASCAR debut at Indianapolis

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Former Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi will debut in the NASCAR Cup Series later this year, becoming only the second Japanese driver to race in the top level of American stock car racing.

Kobayashi will enter NASCAR’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on 13th August in a Toyota Camry run by 23XI Racing.

The 36-year-old has spent over 10 years of his career as a factory Toyota driver, including three years in its F1 team before it exited the championship, after which he raced for the brand in the World Endurance Championship where he still races today.

His F1 career included one podium on home ground, while he has won 13 races and two titles in the WEC, won IMSA’s Daytona 24 Hours race twice, won in Super GT and claimed seven podiums in Super Formula.

“I think NASCAR is kind of like baseball,” said Kobayashi. “It’s something different in the culture of motorsports compared to Japan and Europe, and it’s NASCAR, and as a driver, it’s an American dream.

“I was lucky as I was able to race in [America’s top sports car series] IMSA the last couple of years. It’s a different way of racing, but I think as racing technology, it’s really at a high level. I really appreciate this opportunity from Toyota Racing Development USA, and of course, Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Gazoo Racing.

Kobayashi is part of Toyota’s WEC squad
“For us, especially the Japanese people, Toyota has been in NASCAR for a while, and I don’t think any other Japanese driver has been in a Toyota racing in the Cup Series. I’m very proud of this opportunity.”

Japan’s first top-level NASCAR racer Hideo Fukuyama made all four of his starts across 2002-03 in a Ford.

Several other ex-F1 drivers have already competed in NASCAR this year. Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen both raced at Circuit of the Americas in March and will return at later rounds.

Button is also driving a Chevrolet Camaro from NASCAR in this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours race, while Kobayashi is going for overall victory in one of Toyota’s hypercars. Toyota is yet to confirm when Kobayashi will have the chance to test his NASCAR before making his debut.

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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5 comments on “Ex-F1 driver Kobayashi to make NASCAR debut at Indianapolis”

  1. Sounds like a fun, albeit perhaps somewhat pr-driven, move as it doesn’t sound like this is a full-time change. Always good to see drivers switch between series, especially those rare ones who do well pretty much everywhere (like Alonso).

    As an aside, Kobyashi is not just an ‘ex-F1 driver’ but a two time WEC World Champion and the 2021 Le Mans 24h winner.

  2. Comment from Kobayashi
    “Actually, I first had an offer from another manufacturer, but they said, ‘No, you have to run with Toyota,’ so I was given this opportunity as a kind of wild card and was able to make it happen.
    As a driver, I am very happy to have received an offer from another manufacturer, and I am also very grateful to the people at Toyota who said, ‘No, no, you have to run with Toyota.”

  3. Good for Kamui!

    Just thinking what’s up with Yuji Ide. I haven’t heard from him since he left F1

  4. I liked watching Kobayashi in F1 and happy to see his driving career continue to grow.

  5. Paul (@frankjaeger)
    7th June 2023, 23:14

    I’d love to see KK back in an F1 car. What a great dynamic driver.

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