Kamui Kobayashi ready for NASCAR Cup debut

Kamui Kobayashi ready for NASCAR Cup debut

Kamui Kobayashi will make his NASCAR debut in Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway marking the first Japanese driver to participate in American stock car racing in more than 20 years.

Kobayashi who is a seasoned driver, will drive the No. 67 23XI Racing Toyota will make his Cup debut start from 28th place.

Shane van Gisbergen, Brodie Kostecki, Jenson Button, and Mike Rockenfeller are among the other famous contenders in the field.

Kobayashi who is a two-time WEC champion and the overall champion of the Le Mans 24 in 2021, has never participated in a start in stock car racing.

The 36-year-old has a wealth of expertise in other areas as well. From 2009 to 2014, Kobayashi made 75 Formula 1 starts, finished on the podium once, and rose as high as 12th in the Formula 1 championship standings.

Kobayashi has put in a lot of simulator time and tested the vehicle at Virginia International Raceway in the days leading up to this weekend’s race. He can additionally rely on his teammates including Tyler Reddick, the defending Indy RC winner.

“It’s been a long preparation for myself,” said Kobayashi during a Saturday press conference at IMS. “I’ve been traveling from Japan three times from Europe to Charlotte and I was preparing being here at the Indy Road Course.

“I’m really happy to finally get here. I think the preparation was pretty good. I think 23XI helped me to get here and be pretty confident.

“Obviously, I think Toyota and TRD have helped me a lot in the simulator sessions to be prepared for this road course.

“Honestly, I think with my preparation and everything that I’m 100% ready for this weekend.”

Kobayashi experienced a brief off-road adventure while being pursued by other cars as he found his groove during practice. Other than that, he has performed flawlessly. He ran five laps in the 20 minutes of practice, finishing 31st.

“Honestly, I think just concerns of 20 minutes of practice here and then straight to qualifying,” Kobayashi stated when asked about the drivers’ limited track time. “Obviously, we need to prepare as much as we can but 20 minutes — it’s not enough time, but this is how it is.

“I will say the car behavior is challenging for me because I’ve never driven such less downforce with the weight.

“I think weight transfer in the car is different than what I’m used to driving.

“When I did the rookie test at VIR it was pretty good. Just after a couple laps I feel pretty confident.

“I think here after the rookie test I would say it’s not too bad to be honest, and with all the preparation, it helped my confidence level as well.”

Kobayashi completed his fastest lap on the road course in 1:29.077 during qualifying, missing the benchmark time by 0.595 seconds. He qualified better than Rockenfeller and Button, who are making their third Cup Series outing this weekend.

The present Cup car and other cars he has driven in the past can’t really be compared to each other according to Kobayashi.

“You’re driving and even you’re fighting on the straight… Be on the straight before braking because that’s quite important,” he added.

“When we’re racing in my race car on the straight it’s just you’re relaxed, but this car you’re still fighting on the straight.

“Obviously, it’s a new challenge for me but it’s still the racing is good with this kind of car because it’s like the drivers are fighting all the way.”

There won’t be any shortage of contact in Sunday’s race given that there are only three more races until the playoffs. Kobayashi is aware of this, but he still intends to save what he can for the last round and won’t be drawn into a battle in the first stages.

“I think you fight all of the way but you need to protect your car to be ready in the last part of the race,” he added.

“It’s not only to fight is the most important, but you have to manage all of the race. Any race is the same.

“When you’re doing an endurance race for example, you need to manage the car. It’s not only fighting for 24 hours, it’s just you manage yourself.

“Once you have a good opportunity, you just maintain the gap. You manage the car, be ready because I think after you get to the caution, because obviously the pack is down again and you have to restart.

“When you have the best car, you’re at an advantage. I use my previous experience as much as I can and I believe if there’s good speed myself, you need to manage the car.

“I think that’s how you fight in the racing here.”

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