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I think that us Americans who idolize European racing like Formula One and GT cars tend to brush off stock cars and oval tracks as dimwitted nonsense. While you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong if you believe that. Oval racing takes very real skill, even more commitment, and incredible bravery. But don’t take my word for it, take the “Drift King” Keiichi Tsuchiya’s difficult experience coming stateside to race stock cars.

That’s right, Dorikin himself had a real infatuation with the American style of racing. He has always been a racing driver that’s embraced multiple disciplines, never turning his nose up to any one series, so this is no surprise. Whether he started this journey before or after the 1996 Suzuka Thunder Special isn’t clear, but I can’t find videos of Dorikin driving stock cars before 1996.

What I really love is how clearly Tsuchiya is applying himself to the discipline, an earnest dedication to learning a foreign way of racing. He takes it as seriously as anyone could, never once doubting the difficulty and skill of stock car drivers once he hops in and goes for a spin. He admitted that he used to make fun of them until he drove a stock car, and instantly understood the difficulty of muscling the heavy thing around.

This is coming from the guy who tamed the legendary and unbeatable Group A Nissan GT-R, any number of AE86 race cars, and modified street tuner cars with great prowess. His credentials are without doubt. Those credentials applied without incredulity and with humility is refreshing to see.

There are two videos with English subtitles that I could find on his journey through the junior ranks of NASCAR. My favorite one is of him at California Speedway (now Auto Club Speedway) because that makes two tracks that both Tsuchiya and I have been to. It’s the little things. It also has some of Tsuchiya-san’s most impressive driving, but unfortunately includes him wrecking out of his race. He struggled with balance heavily, which you can see in the video clearly. He made one absolutely unbelievable save with a massive drift, but the car stepped out once more in the same spot and couldn’t be saved.

Enjoy watching this man’s prodigious skill being deployed on the good ol’ boys of American racing. Seeing one of the great drivers of all time struggle with something is special to see, and seeing Dorikin look so young makes 1996 feel so far away. 

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