Kamui Kobayashi Wants NASCAR Back Racing In Japan

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read

Former Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi believes there is an opportunity for NASCAR to gain fans in Japan because the sport allows more connectivity between the fans and the drivers than F1.

“It (NASCAR) is totally different from European racing,” says Kobayashi, who will drive a 23XI Racing Toyota March 24 at Circuit of the Americas. “The whole event is a huge difference. I think Formula One … when we go to European races, it’s too much detail. It’s difficult to understand as a fan, but when you look at NASCAR, it is simpler.

“I know there is technology, but I think as a motorsport the fans can understand what is making a difference at the end of the day. I think there is more connectivity from the fans to the drivers.”

Kobayashi also cites the sound of the stock cars as making it “very different” from other forms of motorsports.

“It’s amazing compared to any type of car, even Formula One,” Kobayashi says. “It sounds noisy, but it’s one of the greatest sounds. If you bring it to Japan, I think people will be impressed with the sound. There’s a big opportunity to bring NASCAR to Japan. I think many people are looking forward to watching the Cup car.”

suzuka thunder

RacingOne//Getty Images

NOVEMBER 24, 1996: Johnny Benson, Jr. (No. 30) and Terry Labonte (No. 5) follow the pace car during the Suzuka Thunder NASCAR Cup exhibition race at Suzuka Circuitland. Eventual winner Rusty Wallace is driving the No. 2 ahead of Richard Childress Racing teammates Mike Skinner (No. 31) and Dale Earnhardt (No. 3).

Kobayashi says NASCAR races aren’t broadcast in Japan on a regular basis. Last year’s NASCAR Cup series Verizon 200 at The Brickyard on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit was broadcast live in Japan because the event was Kobayashi’s NASCAR debut. Driving a 23XI Racing Toyota, he qualified 28th and finished 33rd. He said he thought it was the first time a NASCAR race had been broadcast in Japan since 2016.

“I think maybe people were watching NASCAR and seeing how exciting it was,” Kobayashi said. “People have been following my social media. I think we are again going to have the live broadcast in Japan next weekend in COTA, so I think people will get more knowledge of NASCAR. The racing in NASCAR is very different, so, hopefully, people get more of an understanding on what NASCAR racing is.”

NASCAR conducted three exhibition races in Japan 1996-1998. In 1996 and 1997, the races were at Suzuka Circuitland in Suzuka City, Japan. Rusty Wallace won the first one and Mike Skinner the second. The third exhibition race was at Twin Ring Motegi Superspeedway in Motegi City, Japan. Skinner won it as well. All three races included Japanese drivers.

Ironically, Kobayashi said his “dream was to race NASCAR a long time ago.”

“My first race was NASCAR, when I was like four years old,” Kobayashi says. “It was an oval race, so that’s why I was dreaming to be here.”

auto aug 12 nascar cup series verizon 200 at the brickyard

Icon Sportswire//Getty Images

Kamui Kobayashi (#67 23XI Racing Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota) drives through turn eight during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on August 12, 2023, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Kobayashi believes he is better prepared for the COTA race than he was for the Indianapolis event because he has competed in five races in Formula One and the FIA World Endurance Championship at the Texas road course. He had never been to Indianapolis during his career, but he learned “quite a lot” that weekend, including how the car handled, and the flow of the race.

“I think the second time I can manage myself better, and I’m putting in the preparation now,” Kobayashi says. “I’ve been quite a lot of time in the simulator.”

Kobayashi has never driven an Australian Supercar, but he believes that’s the race car the current NASCAR Cup car resembles.

“I’ve driven GT3 … it’s way different compared to that car,” Kobayashi says. “We have ABS and traction control. With the Cup car, you really don’t have any sensors taking the data. The techniques that I’ve learned are way different. When you look throughout different motorsports, you have BOP (Balance of Performance) and it’s easier for the driver to perform at everything, but in NASCAR, I think you have more of a demand.”

In addition to COTA, Kobayashi is competing this year in the Hypercar World Endurance Championship and Japanese Super Formula. He finished second last year in the Hypercar class season driver standings in the WEC.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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