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NASCAR Cup Madison

Kobayashi to make NASCAR Cup debut with 23XI Racing at Indy road course

Toyota World Endurance Championship team principal and Le Mans winner Kamui Kobayashi will make his NASCAR Cup debut at the Indianapolis road course in August with 23XI Racing.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Kamui Kobayashi

In a press conference at Le Mans prior to first practice on Wednesday, Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson revealed that Kobayashi will campaign the #67 Toyota Camry previously raced by Travis Pastrana to an 11th place finish at the Daytona 500 on 13 August.

He will become the first Japanese driver since Hideo Fukuyama in 2003 to start a Cup race.

Kobayashi's cameo outing with the 23XI team co-owned by Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan comes following similar one-off appearances this season by fellow ex-Formula 1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button with Trackhouse Racing and Rick Ware Racing respectively at Circuit of the Americas.

Wilson said: “It’s truly an honour to have Kamui want to participate in our NASCAR Cup Series programme, and we’re thrilled that we could work with our partners at 23XI Racing to give him a competitive Camry TRD for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course event.

“Kamui shares the passion for motorsports that all of us at Toyota and TRD USA live every day so it will be exciting to show him our NASCAR programme with him behind the wheel of one of our TRD Camrys.”

Kobayashi was appointed team principal of Toyota's WEC arm ahead of the 2022 season alongside his role as a driver in the #7 Toyota GR010 Hypercar.

In 2002, Hideo Fukuyama became the first Japanese driver to qualify for a NASCAR Cup race. Kobayashi is set to become the second.

In 2002, Hideo Fukuyama became the first Japanese driver to qualify for a NASCAR Cup race. Kobayashi is set to become the second.

Photo by: Autostock

“NASCAR is something different in the culture of motorsports compared to Japan and Europe – as a driver, it’s the American dream,” he said.

“I was lucky to be able to race in IMSA the last couple of years. It’s a different form of racing, but I think the racing technology is at a high level.

“I really appreciate this opportunity from TRD, U.S.A. and of course Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Gazoo Racing.

“Toyota has been racing in NASCAR for a long time, but I don’t think any other Japanese driver has raced a Toyota in the Cup Series. I’m very proud of this opportunity.”

NASCAR is present at Le Mans to with a Hendrick Motorsports-run Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the invitational Garage 56 class to mark the stock car championship's 75th anniversary.

Button will share the cockpit with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

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