Team Owner Hattori Sharing Love of NASCAR with Japanese Guests
EXCLUSIVE By Mary Jo Buchanan – This weekend, Shigeaki Hattori, principal of Hattori Racing Enterprises, plans to not only race in the Nationwide Series with driver @RossChastain, but also share his love of NASCAR with over 300 guests from Japan.
“They just got here today,” Hattori told Popular Speed. “Toyota has over 300 different car dealers so each car dealer sent Vice President or General Manager, so we have over 300 people here.
“They are going to Akron, Ohio to Goodyear headquarters and on Saturday some people will be here for the Nationwide race. Some will watch the race and some will sightsee in Chicago. Some others are going to Milwaukee. Sunday, all the people will be here watching the Cup race.”
Hattori admitted he has his work of converting his colleagues to fans cut out for him since NASCAR is fairly foreign to the Japanese people.
“NASCAR went to Japan a couple of times but in Japan Formula One is huge,” Hattori said. “They don’t know about NASCAR. They tried to bring NASCAR to Japan but it didn’t work. Most of my sponsors are from Japan. I’m talking to NASCAR about a TV show and newspaper but these people are from all over Japan. So, this is a huge opportunity to introduce them to NASCAR.”
Hattori himself has quite the racing resume, winning the Formula Toyota title in Japan in 1994. But the lure of the United States called and he moved in 1995 to race Indy Lights from 1996 to 1998.
“Then I went to CART and IRL and drove IRL three years,” Hattori said. “The last year, I drove Toyota Atlantic Series and I tested and drove in the Truck Series I stopped driving and then started my own team. We did K&N East and now Nationwide.
“We started our Nationwide Series program this year with intentions to run a few Nationwide Series races and to have two cars full-time in K&N East. At this point in the season, we decided that we need to focus more on our Nationwide Series program.
“We received a lot of support from our sponsors encouraging this decision. We are still a small team, and I believe we need to run more Nationwide Series races to gain more experience so that we can be even stronger next season.”
With that Nationwide focus, Hattori is excited to have young up and coming driver Ross Chastain behind the wheel of his team’s No. 80 Toyota sponsored Toyota.
“I see a lot of drivers, young kids, who have huge talent but they don’t have any sponsors,” Hattori said. “Ross did a really good job last year for the BKR team in the Truck Race. He’s a good driver but he doesn’t have a sponsor. He contacted me right after Daytona. We were talking and I put him in Chicago and he finished 12th. So, I put him in again this weekend.”
And while Hattori wants to see a good result for his HRE team in the Nationwide Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300, more than anything he wants to covert his 300 Japanese guests to NASCAR fans.
“Most of the people in Japan don’t know about NASCAR,” Hattori said. “They don’t know it because most of the races are televised at midnight. NASCAR is a totally different type of car racing. I love NASCAR. I want to introduce this and help them discover it too.”
“Most of our sponsors are from Japan and I also want to introduce more NASCAR into the Japanese market.” Hattori continued “Many of the companies over in Japan are looking for the US market. So, I do want to introduce more NASCAR and find more sponsors from over there in Japan.”
In addition to his hosting 300 Japanese guests this race weekend, Hattori is also very proud of a cultural exchange program that he has initiated that is built around providing hands on experiences for Japanese students at the race shop and at the track.
In fact, Hattori will have hosted over 120 of these exchange students from Japan when this year’s race season comes to a close.
“I love NASCAR a lot,” Hattori said. “It’s totally different, but it’s great. I want to share my love with those people.
“So, I’m really excited to share that.”
EMAIL MARY JO AT firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW MARY JO ON TWITTER: @maryjobuchanan