Shinji began karting at the age of 13 way back in 1984 and spent a successful five years in this discipline until switching to Japanese Formula 3 in 1989. He then took the brave decision to chance his arm in the Formula Opel Lotus Euroseries for two seasons in 1990-91, but endured a thin time of it and returned to Japan for 1992 to race for Satoru Nakajima in both F3000 and Formula 3. This over-ambitious schedule proved to be his undoing, and he decided to concentrate solely on Formula 3 in 1993 in a bid to restart his now flagging career. Helped greatly by Mugen Honda boss Hirotoshita Honda, he moved back up to the All-Japan F3000 championship the following year and gradually worked his way to the front end of the grid. His connections were crucial in his placement in the Prost team for 1997 where at first he was all at sea. Certainly Alain Prost gave little time to his number two driver and was pushing hard to drop him from the team, but in the end Mr Honda stood firm and his protege was safe. Accepting the situation, Alain then spent some time helping Shinji to come to terms with Formula 1, with the result that his performances improved no end in the second half of the season. For 1998 Nakano was found a seat at Minardi and did a tidy job under difficult circumstances, but not unnaturally nothing in the way of startling results was achieved. A few days' testing for the Jordan team was the only action that Nakano could find in 1999, but he struck a deal to race in CART in 2000, driving a Honda-powered car for Walker Racing. He started confidently, but a heavy shunt in testing at Milwaukee dented his confidence. He also suffered from being in a single-car team. Nakano switched to Fernandez Racing where he had teh benefit of an experienced crew and a team mate with whom he could measure his performances. His two seasons yielded only modest results so he switched to the Indy Racing League for 2003 but competed in just two events finishing 14th in the Indy 500 for Beck Motorsports. Nakano returned to Japan to compete in Sports and GT racing.