Kamui Kobayashi: ‘I Have Big Respect for Cup Drivers’

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Kamui Kobayashi, 24 Hours of Daytona winner and Formula 1 veteran, was one of six foreign drivers in Sunday’s Cup Series field at the Indianapolis GP Circuit. And though he left with a sour finish, the Japanese-born driver was thrilled to experience American stock cars.

At one point in his childhood, Kobayashi dreamt of racing in NASCAR‘s top class. And in just the second race of 23XI Racing’s No. 67 entry, Kobayashi got to live out that dream.

In fact, he’s ready for more.

“I want to come back,” Kobayashi eagerly said. “I want to find a better feel, honestly. This time was challenging but I understand what I need to do and I got quite good experience.

“This experience was amazing for myself. I thank Toyota for the opportunity, TRD as well. Bringing me here is challenging for everyone, but we made it happen. Hopefully, we can explore more in Japan about NASCAR.”

Kobayashi started the day 28th before getting spun by Ty Gibbs on the second lap of the race. A long green-flag run of 77 laps proved to keep his Toyota at the back half.

“If we got a caution, probably it would have given me more of a chance,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is how it is.”

The passion from the 36-year-old, however, has been present ever since his debut was announced back in June. Even after a day that saw multiple run-ins and a 33rd-place finish, Kobayashi stayed grateful.

“Honestly, I enjoyed,” he said. “I just got hit two times by someone, I lost big positions back in the field. I had good speed at some points. When I got hit by someone, I did the spin and did not get any of the grip back. It’s a big shame but this is how it is and definitely I had a good experience to be honest.

“Hopefully when I come back here, I will have more good performance in the Cup car,” he said. “It would be great, I think I need to work a little bit. When I look at some point, I’ve got pretty good speed during the race. We have to put more together and get more experience.”

Following the tricky race, Kobayashi applauded the Cup field.

“I think I knew that being here, just 20 minutes in practice and qualifying, it’s challenging,” he said. “After one race experience for me, I think this is a great championship.

“I strengthened at some points but I have big respect here for Cup drivers, the guys are doing a great job here.”

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