Following the likes of former F1 champs Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button into the world of NASCAR will be ex-Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi, with his debut confirmed.
Since moving on from the Formula 1 scene, Kobayashi has developed an impressive reputation in the world of endurance racing, having picked up two World Endurance Championship titles, while also winning the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans as one-third of the Toyota Gazoo Racing line-up.
Kobayashi now though prepares to take on a brand new challenge in his career as he heads with Toyota for the NASCAR Cup Series.
He will compete for 23XI Racing behind the wheel of the No. 67 Camry TRD at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard event on the venue’s Road Course taking place on August 13.
The ex-Formula 1 influence within the NASCAR ranks grows stronger then, with 2009 World Champion Button and 2007 champ Raikkonen having both headed into Cup Series action in March of 2023 when they contested the Circuit of The Americas round, that a debut in the category for Button.
Kobayashi will become only the second Japanese racer to compete in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series.
“It’s my dream, actually,” Kobayashi told The Associated Press. “It’s such a big sport in the United States and racing in Europe, I never had the chance or opportunity to race NASCAR.
“I think the opportunity will be challenging for myself because it is such a different category.
“But if I have success, I think it will make more opportunities for Japanese drivers. Toyota has been in NASCAR a long time, but there has never been any Japanese drivers for Toyota. That’s also why I say I appreciate this opportunity for myself.”
And Kobayashi is not stressing at all about preparation time ahead of his debut, with simulator work and a track test in Virginia permitted, as he believes he will only need a couple of laps to get up to speed.
“I think I’m a guy who doesn’t need much practice, to be honest,” said the 36-year-old.
“I think once we jump in the car, we will be okay in a couple of laps. So I’m not really concerned about form.”
Kobayashi also made his Formula 1 breakthrough with Toyota, contesting the final two rounds of the 2009 campaign and the team’s existence, before moving to Sauber where he scored a best result of P3 at his home race in 2012.
The 2014 season with an uncompetitive Caterham team proved to be his final on the Formula 1 grid.