Kamui Kobayashi set for a NASCAR return with 23XI Racing at COTA

Kamui Kobayashi set for a NASCAR return with 23XI Racing at COTA

Kamui Kobayashi is set for a return to NASCAR to drive for Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing team once again.

Sports car racing veteran and former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi is set to take the wheel once more with 23XI Racing when the NASCAR Cup Series travels to the Circuit of the Americas(COTA) later this month.

Kobayashi will drive the team’s third No. 50 Toyota Camry alongside teammates Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace as NASCAR season heads to its first road course race at COTA.

The 37-year old made history as the first Japanese driver to compete in a Cup race in 20 years after making his debut at the Indianapolis Road Course last year.

He suffered several mishaps during the race after starting 28th and finishing 33rd. He was spun twice (by Andy Lally and later Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) in Turn 1 but afterwards spoke highly of his experience and expressed that he wanted to come back for more in the future.

“First of all, I was waiting for a caution,” Kobayashi said after the race. “It never happened. I definitely enjoyed it. Thank you. 77 laps, no caution is pretty long – I think I learned a lot.

“We had some good speed, as well. I got hit by someone, but this is NASCAR. But the racing in the field was great. It’s a really cool championship – I had a great experience here.

“Thank you to all of the support from Toyota, Toyota Gazoo Racing North America.”

The 2021 Le Mans 24 overall winner stated that racing in NASCAR was his long-standing desire even before he set his sights on Formula 1.

“I want people in Japan to know about this amazing world that is NASCAR,” Kobayashi said before making his debut in 2023. “The sound of the V8 engine is incredible, and I want people to think, ‘this is what motorsport should be like.’

“It’s true that some people might think that it’s not fair because they don’t give penalties for contact, but I think it’s better to put that aside, because the fast guys still win.”

Kobayashi made 75 race starts as an F1 driver between 2009 and 2014, and finished on the podium once during the Suzuka Japanese Grand Prix in 2012. However, he was most successful in sports car racing, where he won two FIA World Endurance Championships alongside his LM24 victory.

He currently serves as the Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC team’s team principal. On top of that, Kobayashi has won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona two times in total.

The 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours winner is just one of several former Formula 1 drivers who have tried their hand at NASCAR in recent years as World Champions Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen raced in the 2023 CoTA event.

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