A world-reknowned racing star has put pen to paper and become the latest member of Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing team. Kamui Kobayashi, 36, has been announced as the team’s latest recruit and will drive the #67 Toyota Camry TRD in a race in August.
Kobayashi is set to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut later this year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on Sunday August 13th. The 36-year-old will compete alongside 23XI Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace.
Reacting to the news on Twitter, Kobayashi said: “My dream announcement today I will racing @nascar cup series @indianapolismotorspeedway on 13.08.23. Thank you very much this opportunity.”
Born in Amagasaki, Kobayashi is only the second Japanese driver to enter a Cup Series race, but the first to do so in a Toyota. The driver is behind only Hideo Fukuyama, who made four Cup starts between 2002-03.
Kobayashi already has an impressive record with five championship titles to his name, as well as 75 career starts in F1. The Japanese driver also recently won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota in 2021 and is yet to finish lower than third place since 2018.
For his latest venture the 36-year-old will drive the #67 car which has become an iconic number in racing for 23XI. The number was last used by former NASCAR driver and motorsports icon Travis Pastrana who managed an 11th placed finish at the season-opening Daytona 500.
“It’s my dream, actually,” Kobayashi told The Associated Press. “It’s such a big sport in the United States and racing in Europe, I never had the chance or opportunity to race NASCAR. I think the opportunity will be challenging for myself because it is such a different category.
“But if I have success, I think it will make more opportunities for Japanese drivers. Toyota has been in NASCAR a long time, but there has never been any Japanese drivers for Toyota. That’s also why I say I appreciate this opportunity for myself.”
In a press conference, Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson added: “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”
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Michael Jordan first launched NASCAR team 23XI Racing with Bubba Wallace and driver Denny Hamlin back in late 2020.
Speaking in a statement at the time, the NBA legend said: “Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more.’
The 60-year-old also joins fellow sporting icon boxing great Floyd Mayweather as another owner in the stockcar racing circuit. The Money Team Racing was officially founded in 2022.
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