Kamui Kobayashi, a former Formula One veteran and two-time champion in the FIA World Endurance Championship, will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut for 23XI Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in August. He will drive the No. 67 Toyota as a teammate to Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing announced Wednesday.
Kobayashi will become only the second Japanese-born driver to ever race in the NASCAR Cup Series, joining Hideo Fukuyama, who made four career starts between 2002 and 2003, and the first to ever race for Toyota.
"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."
Kobayashi is one of three drivers from Japan to have won a championship in an FIA series, alongside Toshi Arai and Kazuki Nakajima. A native of Amagasaki, Kobayashi made 75 starts in F1 from 2009 to 2014, earning one career podium when he finished third in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix. In doing so, Kobayashi became only the third Japanese driver to ever sit on an F1 podium alongside Aguri Suzuki and Takuma Sato.
Kobayashi has since gone on to race in the World Endurance Championship, where he has earned 14 career wins and won the championship in 2019-20 and again in 2021. He was also part of the winning team in the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans, becoming the fourth Japanese driver to win at Le Mans.
Kobayashi becomes the latest driver with Formula One experience to try his hand at NASCAR, and he will join 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button in the field at Indianapolis. Other recent F1-to-NASCAR converts include Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat.