Kamui Kobayashi, a full-time competitor in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Road Course, adding NASCAR to a decorated resume.
The 36-year-old driver will partner with 23XI Racing for the event, piloting the No. 67 Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota Camry TRD, a third entry for the race-winning organization at NASCAR’s top-level.
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) June 7, 2023
The August 13 event marks just the second race of the season for the organization’s third part-time entry, after Travis Pastrana joined forces with the team for the 2023 Daytona 500, earning an 11th-place result in what was also his Cup Series debut.
“The American motorsports culture is a little different from that of Japan and Europe, and NASCAR, with its unique culture, is an American dream for local drivers. I have competed in several car championship races. Although IMSA and NASCAR are different races, I believe the technology in the races is at a very high level”, Kobayashi said in a press release. “TRD-USA and North America gave me this opportunity. Thank you so much to Toyota and TGR. It’s been a while since Toyota started competing in NASCAR, but I think I’ll be the first Japanese driver to race a Toyota car in the Cup Series, so I’m taking this chance. I’m really happy to have you.”
Kobayashi is no stranger to partnering with Toyota, spending the last seven seasons competing for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the FIA WEC, earning a pair of championships in 2019-20 and 2021, as well as victory in the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The announcement of Kobayashi’s venture into the NASCAR Cup Series was made at Circuit de la Sarthe (Le Mans), where the driver will once again compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, alongside NASCAR’s landmark entry into the event with its Garage 56 entry.
Kobayashi is also a winner of the 2019 and 2020 iterations of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona driving for Wayne Taylor Racing. Recent NASCAR debutant Jordan Taylor co-drove the WTR entry in the 2019 event. In 2021 and 2022, the Japanese driver shared the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller, who will both pilot NASCAR’s Garage 56 entry along with 2009 Formula 1 champion Jenson Button.
Kobayashi joins what is poised to be a stacked field at Indianapolis, with Button already announced to compete for Rick Ware Racing in the event. Button and Kobayashi’s F1 careers overlapped from 2010-12 and in 2014.
In 76 Formula One grands prix, Kobayashi picked up a single podium, which came in his native Japan in 2012. In addition to that experience, the driver also has experience in Super GT, the top level of sports car racing in Japan, Formula E, and Super Formula.
Of note, when Kobayashi takes the green flag at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August, he will become just the second Japanese-born driver to make a NASCAR Cup Series start, after Hideo Fukuyama. However, the decorated road racer will become the first to make a start in the series with Toyota, which entered the NASCAR Cup Series in 2007.