Who is Kamui Kobayashi?

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NASCAR 75th Anniversary Commemorative Magazine

23XI racing announced that another international motorsports star is coming to NASCAR as Kamui Kobyashi will race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in August. The Japanese driver has never driven in NASCAR before, but he has had auto racing success in the United States. Who is Kamui Kobyashi?

Early Career and Formula One

Kamui Kobayashi was born on September 13, 1986 in Amagasaki, Japan. He worked his way up through the junior categories winning championships in Formula Renault and the GP2 Asia Series.

During that time, Kobayashi became a reserve driver for the now defunct Toyota Formula One team. His first chance to drive in Formula One came in 2009. The team’s normal driver Timo Glock was injured, and Kobayashi was tabbed to race in the final two races of the season in Interlagos, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

In both races, Kobayashi performed well finishing in ninth at Brazil and sixth at Abu Dhabi. As a result, he was rewarded with a full-time seat in F1 for the BMW Sauber team.

Kobayashi finished 12th in the driver standings in all three years at Sauber between 2010 and 2012. His F1 career highlight came in 2012. Kobayashi would get his best career finish of third at his home race track of Suzuka.

After missing out on a full-time ride for 2013, Kobayashi returned to F1 for Caterham, but he failed to record a single point. Fortunately for Kobayashi, endurance racing came calling.

Endurance Racing

Left without an F1 ride in the 2013 season, Kobayashi dipped his toe into endurance racing running for AF Corse in the GTE-Pro Class. After leaving F1 again following 2014, Kobayashi got the call from the company who gave him his first big break, Toyota.

Toyota Gazoo Racing, one of the top teams in the FIA World Endurance Championship, hired Kobayashi to drive full-time in the Le Mans Prototype 1 class, the top class in the WEC. Here Kobayashi would find his niche winning his first race with the team in his home country at Fuji, Japan.

He and Toyota Gazoo teammates Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez would go on to win two FIA World Endurance Championship titles in 2020 and 2021. Kobayashi’s success was not just limited to Europe either.

In 2019 and 2020 Kobayashi was tapped to drive for Wayne-Taylor Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Aloingside motorsports superstars such as Fernando Alonso, Jordan Taylor, Scott Dixon, and others, the team won the race both years.

However, it took a while longer for Kobayashi to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kobayashi and Toyota Gazoo Racing won the pole at Le Mans in 2017, 2019, and 2020. They also led the most laps in the race in 2016, 2018, and 2019, but they had no wins to show for it.

Finally, Kobayashi and his crew broke through winning his first 24 Hours of Le Mans. They won the race by two laps.

Now Kobayashi has a new challenge, NASCAR. Not only that, but NASCAR in a car that has race-winning speed. He will be a guy to watch when NASCAR makes the trip to Indianapolis this August.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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