NASCAR’s ‘sound’ would be a draw in Japan – Kobayashi

Kamui Kobayashi believes there would be an audience in Japan if NASCAR were to make a return to his homeland.

NASCAR brought stock cars and its Cup Series stars to Japan for the first time in 1996. The cars were shipped across the Pacific and ran at the Suzuka Circuit, in NASCAR’s first major international race. After two years of competing at Suzuka, the exhibition event ran at Motegi in 1998.

“I think for sure there is an opportunity,” Kobayashi (pictured at left, above) said Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he is embedded with 23XI Racing ahead of his second Cup Series start next weekend. “It is very different than any type of motorsport. It’s the sound. NASCAR has amazing sound. It’s amazing compared to any type of car, even Formula 1.”


Kobayashi has experience driving a Formula 1 car and a sports car (he’s a two-time WEC champion and former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner). In August, Kobayashi added stock cars to his résumé when he made his NASCAR debut at Indianapolis.

“It sounds noisy, but it’s one of the greatest sounds,” Kobayashi continued at a NASCAR stock car. “When you are watching them race that close to the wall, it’s something that is hard to believe. I’m impressed. When you look at older sports cars, it’s hard to define the noise.

“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.”

NASCAR going international has been a renewed topic of conversation in recent years. Most of the discussion has been around returning to Mexico and Canada, where both the Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series have competed. But it hasn’t been since 2019 that a national series has been outside the United States (the Truck Series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

Kobayashi became the second Japanese driver to compete at the Cup Series level when he debuted on the Indianapolis road course last summer. He started 28th and finished 33rd. 23XI Racing will again field Kobayashi, this time in the No. 50 with Mobil 1 sponsorship, as he returns to the series at Circuit of the Americas (March 24).

The reception and following of Kobayashi’s NASCAR first experience last year was well received in Japan. Kobayashi expects that to be the case again next weekend.

“NASCAR, we don’t have it on broadcast, for example,” he said. “Last year, for the Indy race, it was live. I think the last broadcast was like in 2016. So, I think maybe people were watching NASCAR and seeing how exciting it was. 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.”

Story originally appeared on Racer