Friday night’s K&N Pro Series East race at Iowa Speedway will represent graduation day for a group of six Japanese college students taking a crash course in NASCAR.
Shige Hattori, whose Hattori Racing Enterprises is fielding the No. 1 Yazaki Toyota Camry for Jesse Little at Iowa, has been hosting a nine-person delegation from his native country since July 20.
The six students and three instructors from Toyota Technical College in Japan took classes and underwent pit stop training at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C., and they helped prepare Little’s car for the race. They also visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway and watched Modifieds race at Bowman Gray Stadium as part of a stock-car indoctrination over their week in North Carolina.
They arrived Wednesday in Iowa and have been helping Little’s team during inspection and practice the past two days. Yuichi Kobayashi, Keisuke Shigemitsu, Sohya Suzuki, Daichi Kanda, Takato Ishigami and Tatsuya Ide will be working on Little’s car during the intermission of Friday’s race before returning Saturday to Japan.
“Even though we may not speak the same language, we’ve been able to work well together because we all have racing in common,” Little said. “They’ve been practicing pit stops and we’ve been talking strategy, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together as a team this weekend.”
The students are from three branches of the Toyota Technical College with campuses located in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe. They will return Saturday to Japan, completing an annual culture exchange.
“This has been a great opportunity for the students to not only become immersed in NASCAR, but to visit the United States and experience a different culture,” Hattori, a veteran of NASCAR and IndyCar, said in a release. “This is the fourth year of this program where we’ve had college students from Toyota Technical College come to North Carolina, and I’m really happy that we can provide these students with this unique opportunity and learning experience. It’s exciting for me to be able to share what I’m doing in NASCAR as a team owner with students from Japan, where I began my racing career. ”
The K&N East race at Iowa will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 on NBCSN.