Kamui Kobayashi, a two-time FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) champion, will add a debut in the NASCAR Cup Series to his extensive resume later this season, by competing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Road Course.
The 36-year-old driver will join forces with 23XI Racing for the event, driving the No. 67 Toyota Camry TRD in the August event. Toyota Genuine Parts will serve as the primary sponsor for this one-off NASCAR event.
"The American motorsports culture is a little different from that of Japan and Europe, and NASCAR, with its unique culture, is an American dream for local drivers," said Kobayashi. "I have competed in several car championship races. Although IMSA and NASCAR are different races, I believe the technology in the races is at a very high level."
"TRD-USA and North America gave me this opportunity. Thank you so much to Toyota and TGR.It's been a while since Toyota started competing in NASCAR, but I think I'll be the first Japanese driver to race a Toyota car in the Cup Series, so I'm taking this chance. I'm really happy to have you."
An official announcement was made on Wednesday at Circuit De La Sarthe (Le Mans), where Kobayashi is scheduled to compete alongside NASCAR's Garage 56 entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"We are thrilled to support Kamui in his first NASCAR Cup Series start as we field another competitive Toyota for the race in Indianapolis," said Steve Lauletta, president of 23XI Racing. "This race will also serve as a great opportunity for our team to compete with and learn from a highly accomplished driver. Earlier in the season the No. 67 team did a great job preparing and executing at the Daytona 500 and we look forward to the same with Kamui. We are also excited to introduce Kamui's many international fans to 23XI and our sport."
With his NASCAR Cup Series debut scheduled for August, Kobayashi is poised to be the second Japanese-born driver to compete at NASCAR's top-level, and the first to compete with Toyota as a manufacturer.
"It's truly an honor to have Kamui want to participate in our NASCAR Cup Series program, 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," said David Wilson, president of TRD. "Kamui shares the passion for motorsports that all of us at Toyota and TRD, U.S.A. live every day so it will be exciting to show him our NASCAR program with him behind the wheel of one of our TRD Camrys."
Kobayashi has accumulated several years of experience competing in different racing divisions across the world, including Formula One, where he scored a single podium in 74 starts.
Of note, the Amagasaki, Japan-native will be joined on the grid by Jenson Button, who will drive the No. 15 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing in the event. While in Formula One, Button and Kobayashi shared the grid on numerous occasions.
Making his Cup Series debut at Indianapolis, Kobayashi will have a pair of teammates, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace, to bounce notes off of, as he makes his first-ever start in a stock car.
Image Courtesy of NASCAR, Twitter