Aki Okamoto became one of the few Japanese drivers to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR when he tested a Weekly Racing Series car at the Hickory Motor Speedway on Thursday [15 July].

The 25-year-old from Tokyo completed 70 laps of the circuit behind the wheel of the Lackey Motorsports Chevrolet, setting a best time of 15.446 seconds.

His performance impressed team owner Mike Lackey, especially as he was running on tyres that had already completed a full race distance.

"Aki did a fantastic job," he said. "He built up at his own pace to turn some very consistent lap times inside the 15's which for the first time at Hickory is great. At his pace he can run in the top 3 here".

"We tested Oli Wilkinson from England a few days ago and admittedly Aki had better tires from the start and when Oli tested it was hotter too. Both drivers proved they are naturals on a speedway and I hope to put together a deal for them both to race with my team soon. Our Chevrolet Monte Carlo is really good and I am just pleased to have the chance to work with these guys"

With previous experience on faster ovals from his time competing in the American Barber Dodge Pro-Series, Okamoto was pleased with how the test went.

"Firstly my goal was to know how the car and track are because I have never driven a real stock car or a short track," he said. "So I built up the speed slowly and I checked everything on the car and the track. I knew this car is pretty good after a few laps because I could carry a fast turn in speed to the corners and steering was very positive. Fortunately we had a good engineer and mechanics so I can drive faster in a short time, thanks to their good advice.

"I want to thank the team and I really want to race with them soon! It was a very impressive experience".