Sunday, May 19, 2024

Akinori Ogata returns to Xfinity Series at Atlanta

Akinori Ogata will make his 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season début on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, driving the #53 Chevrolet Camaro for Emerling-Gase Motorsports.

Ogata first raced in the series in 2018 at Phoenix, finishing thirty-third for MBM Motorsports. After two years away, he ran a race apiece for Jimmy Means and B.J. McLeod at Richmond and Martinsville, respectively.

He returned to MBM for an expanded slate in 2022, entering four races and qualifying for two. However, he retired from both.

Much of Ogata’s focus has been in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he has raced part-time since 2014. He entered the Atlanta race there in March for G2G Racing and finished seventeenth. Ogata also has three prior starts there, retiring from the first two in 2017 and 2018 and placing thirty-seventh in the 2021 edition.

Otherwise, the 49-year-old’s emphasis is in late models at Hickory Motor Speedway, scoring four victories since 2022 and being the first Japanese driver to win there. He is one of six drivers from Japan to race in a NASCAR national division alongside Hideo FukuyamaShigeaki HattoriKenkō Miura, Kenji Momota, and Toshio Suzuki (Kamui Kobayashi is set to become the seventh in August), with Suzuki being the only other to have competed in the Xfinity Series.

The #53 is thirty-fourth in owner points with team owners Patrick Emerling and Joey Gase have split the ride with C.J. McLaughlin, Matt Mills, and Brad Pérez. McLaughlin holds its best run of the season at Talladega of thirteenth, while Gase retired from the first Atlanta round.