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Kamui Kobayashi Turning Heads in Simulator Ahead of COTA Start

Kamui Kobayashi 23XI Racing COTA simulator Toyota NASCAR Cup Series 2024

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford,

Could Kamui Kobayashi be a sleeper pick to win this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas? The renowned road racer, who came home a disappointing 33rd in his NASCAR Cup Series debut a season ago, has been impressing in the simulator heading into this weekend’s race in Austin, Texas.

According to 23XI Racing team owner Denny Hamlin, the 37-year-old Kobayashi has been cranking out some impressive speed in the Toyota Simulator this week.

Tyler Reddick, who won this event a year ago, and has three NASCAR Cup Series wins on road courses, is always among the fastest on the Toyota Sim in road course preparation. However, this week, he’s been challenged by the two-time IMSA race winner and former Formula 1 podium finisher.

“In the sim, he’s just so fast,” Hamlin said in an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “He’s faster than Tyler [Reddick], and Tyler is faster than me. And Tyler is faster than everyone when it comes to that – driving on a simulator on a road course, and he backs it up on the racetrack. And Kamui has been faster so far than him this week.”

While there is a long way to go before Kobayashi can even dream about picking up the trophy in this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race, Hamlin says he knows the raw talent and speed are there for Kobayashi.

“I really think he has the talent, we know he can do it,” Hamlin explained. “He races all kinds of different cars on all kinds of different road courses.”

The key to Kobayashi scoring a solid result this weekend could lie within Saturday’s qualifying session. In his first career NASCAR Cup Series start, which came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course last season, Kobayashi qualified 28th, and he was stuck in the scrum for the entire race, and was unable to shove his way through the minefield.

“He had a bit of a tough go at it the first time at Indy. He kind of got bounced around a little bit because he didn’t qualify that well,” Hamlin recalled. “But hopefully, it turns out to be a better result this time. We’re really optimistic with Mobil 1 on the car for their 50th anniversary. Certainly, there is a lot of optimism that Kamui can go out in the third car and make some noise.”

What a pleasant surprise it would be if Kobayashi could indeed make some noise this weekend in the No. 50 23XI Racing Toyota Camry XSE.

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