Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda wearing a racing suit smiles after driving a Toyota GT 86, background, as he reveals the new sports car at Fuji Speedway in Oyama, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011.AP
He runs one of the world’s largest automakers and has competed in the grueling 24-hour race at Germany’s Nurburgring race track, but does Toyota’s president have what it takes to make it in NASCAR?
Before the final practice for the Daytona 500 on Saturday, 55-year-old Akio Toyoda took to the high banks of the legendary Florida circuit to test out a black and white camouflaged prototype of the 2013 Toyota Camry that’s set to compete in the series next year.
Toyoda and NASCAR driver Kyle Busch each turned 10 laps on the high-banked speedway in the new car.
"Although we didn't show it today, the styling we want to really look like Camry, and I really hope that the fans of NASCAR would love it," Toyoda said afterward.
Toyoda traveled from Japan to get a firsthand look at the company's newest racing car, which officially will be unveiled May 22 in Salisbury, N.C.
Toyoda also toured Daytona International Speedway, met with Toyota drivers Michael Waltrip, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., and sat down with a few media members. He raved about the history of Daytona and said it was an honor to turn laps at NASCAR's most famous track.
He also was interested in learning more about American racing.
"As far as I am concerned this is the first time that I have come here and really seen it for myself," he said through a translator. "However, I've been always interested in this great sort of a cultural event, the racing activity in the United States, which is really supported by many sponsors and fans.
"I was always interested in this. So this time I got to come here, and I haven't really, you know, seen everything on the ground yet. But it's like a part of a lifestyle, which is really supported and enjoyed by so many people, and I think it's wonderful."
And no media session would be complete without a question about former IndyCar star Danica Patrick, who is making a full-time jump to stock cars this year.
"Actually, to be honest, I was a bit surprised that in the history, over 60 years, there weren't that many female drivers," he said. "But I think it's really great for NASCAR's sake to have a female driver like her and be so actively successful and be supported by so many people. But I'm glad that it was (Kyle) Busch that I rode with today. If it had been her riding with me, I may have driven differently."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.