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Kamui Kobayashi Shows Improvement in Second NASCAR Start

Kamui Kobayashi NASCAR Circuit of the Americas 2024 29th place video spun by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Photo Credit: Matthew T. Thacker, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

Kamui Kobayashi was at a loss for what to say after his second NASCAR Cup Series start had a very similar result to his first. On the day, Kobayashi got spun twice by his fellow competitors and the Japanese racer came home with a disappointing 29th-place finish. And just like his NASCAR Cup Series debut, Sunday’s race at COTA featured no natural cautions throughout the race, which gave him little to no chance to make up for the cards he was dealt after being spun out.

“Just no yellow,” Kobayashi said after the race. “The second time, actually no yellow during my race. Second shot, two shots, and no yellows. I’m really disappointed, but at least I enjoyed [the race].”

The reason Kobayashi enjoyed the day, despite the frustrating finish, was clear. He carried a lot more pace on the track for his second NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend at Circuit of the Americas than he did in his first start last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Heading into the race weekend, 23XI Racing team owner Denny Hamlin was gushing about Kobayashi’s speed in the Toyota simulator, saying that Kobayashi was turning laps faster than defending race winner Tyler Reddick.

While he didn’t turn the fastest overall lap in Sunday’s race, the driver of the No. 50 Mobil 1 23XI Racing Toyota Camry ran very respectably.

After starting from the 25th starting spot, Kobayashi found himself in the 23rd position as he approached a pit stop near the end of the Stage. Kobayashi would finish the Stage in the 29th position after several drivers opted to stay on track to score Stage Points.

After restarting 26th in Stage 2, Kobayashi worked his way up to the 18th position on Lap 25. But his stay inside the top-20 would be short-lived as a lap later, Kobayashi was sent spinning by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. As Kobayashi began to spin, Stenhouse attempted to scoot past cleanly, but Kobayashi caught the side of Stenhouse’s car, which caused Stenhouse to go for a spin as well.

If you recall back to last season, Stenhouse was the driver that delivered the final blow to Kobayashi in his NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, as he sent him spinning in the final Stage of that race.

While Kobayashi was struggling to acclimate himself in his debut race last season, he feels he didn’t do anything wrong to warrant the shot he received from Stenhouse on Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

“No, I have nothing to say. I mean, if they have an explanation, I think they have an explanation because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Kobayashi said in a post-race interview with Frontstretch. “He just hit me.”

Due to the spin, Kobayashi would finish 36th in Stage 2, but he would get a chance to re-rack with the Stage break caution, and in the final Stage of the race, Kobayashi once again worked his way inside the top-20, as he reached the 16th position with 21 laps remaining in the event.

However, following his final pit stop of the day, Kobayashi once again found himself going into the spin cycle. This time, it was at the hands of Rookie of the Year contender Josh Berry in an incident with 16 laps remaining in the race.

In this incident, Kobayashi cut off Brad Keselowski and made slight contact heading into the corner, but it was no harm, no foul. But on the exit of the corner, Berry — who was down a lap — seemingly accelerated through the rear of Kobayashi’s car to send him around.

“The pace was there. It’s a big shame,” Kobayashi explained. “Someone just damaged my race in the mid-stage.”

The spin dropped Kobayashi to 33rd. Over the final 16 laps, he work climb back inside the top-30 to score his career best NASCAR Cup Series finish of 29th. The finish wasn’t indicative of the speed Kobayashi had in the race, as he had the 22nd-fastest best lap in the 39-car field.

Kobayashi says there are currently no plans on tap for him to run additional NASCAR events in 2024, but he enjoys racing a stock car, and was really thankful for the opportunity to come into this weekend’s race much more prepared than he was for his debut last season.

“No, I think no plans yet. But I’m sure we have opportunities I want to enjoy,” Kobayashi said. “I definitely enjoy and thanks to NASCAR and everybody supporting. This time, Mobil 1, and of course TRD and 23XI [Racing]. Everybody helped me to bring me here. I think all of the preparation has been done. It’s great. But the result didn’t come up. But with short notice, and short practice, I definitely think we did good compared to Indy.”

The 37-year-old definitely improved from the last time we saw him in the field, and if we see him dip his toe into the NASCAR world for another start down the road, expect him to have even more pace.

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