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Toyota Ruffles a Few Feathers, Takes a Seat on the NASCAR Cup Desk in 2007

Toyota Ruffles a Few Feathers, Takes a Seat on the NASCAR Cup Desk in 2007

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  • From a driver standpoint, Toyota pilots have gained the NASCAR Cup championship 3 times for the reason that firm got here into NASCAR.
  • Maybe probably the most dominating side of Toyota’s entry into NASCAR was within the Truck Sequence, because it has gained the driving force’s championship 9 instances.
  • Whereas Toyota has been totally accepted as a revered and aggressive producer within the sport today, it was a a lot completely different sport again when the corporate got here into the game greater than 15 years in the past.

    Very similar to it has executed in car showrooms across the nation, because it first got here into NASCAR in 2007, Japanese automaker Toyota has develop into a tricky competitor to its American rivals Chevrolet and Ford on inventory automotive racetracks from Loudon to Fontana.

    There’s no query Toyota has develop into an enormous success. From a driver standpoint, Toyota pilots have gained the NASCAR Cup championship 3 times for the reason that firm got here into NASCAR: 2015 (Kyle Busch), 2017 (Martin Truex Jr.) and 2019 (Kyle Busch). Within the Xfinity Sequence, Toyota drivers have gained the championship 4 instances: Kyle Busch (2009), Daniel Suarez (2018), Daniel Hemric (2021) and Ty Gibbs (2022).

    After which there’s Toyota’s efficiency for NASCAR’s Producer Championship. Chevrolet had dominated the Producer’s crown, successful it 14 instances in a 15-year span between 2001 and 2015, till Toyota gained in 2016 and once more in 2017 and 2019. Toyota has additionally gained the Producer’s championship 4 instances within the Xfinity Sequence (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016.

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    Michael Waltrip introduced Toyota to the Cup Sequence in 2007.

    Rusty JarrettGetty Pictures

    However maybe probably the most dominating side of Toyota’s entry into NASCAR was within the Truck Sequence, because it has gained the driving force’s championship 9 instances: 2006 (Todd Bodine), 2008 (Johnny Benson), 2010 (Todd Bodine), 2013 (Matt Crafton), 2014 (Matt Crafton), 2015 (Erik Jones), 2017 (Christopher Bell), 2018 (Brett Moffitt) and 2021 (Ben Rhodes).

    As stout of a file that Toyota has had for drivers within the Truck Sequence, it’s been even larger within the Producer’s championship, incomes the crown an unimaginable 13 instances since its first foray into NASCAR in 2004.

    And now, as late broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, “right here’s the remainder of the story”:

    Whereas Toyota has been totally accepted as a revered and aggressive producer within the sport today, it was a a lot completely different sport again when the corporate got here into the game greater than 15 years in the past.

    Beginning with the Vans, the producer actually wasn’t thought-about a lot of a menace early on—till it grew to become a menace in a short time. However even with the early success in Vans, Toyota didn’t actually catch folks’s consideration for probably the most half till its entry into each NASCAR Cup and the Xfinity Sequence in 2007.

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    Dale Jarrett’s Toyota Camry leads a pack at Martinsville through the 2007 season.

    Todd WarshawGetty Pictures

    Being based mostly first in 2007 with Michael Waltrip Racing (which closed its doorways in 2015), after which Joe Gibbs Racing joined the Toyota camp the next 12 months (which continues right now), Toyota was not well-received by many, each followers and even drivers alike.

    Tony Stewart, who was a longtime Chevrolet recognized driver, in the end left Joe Gibbs Racing after two years of driving a Toyota, and took on a 50% fairness co-ownership stake with the then Haas CNC Racing, being renamed Stewart Haas Racing.

    Toyota’s becoming a member of the Cup sequence particularly didn’t sit nicely with many followers. The corporate obtained quite a few complaints, largely alongside nationalistic traces (for the very fact Toyota is headquartered in Japan). Numerous followers left the game when Toyota entered it, together with plenty of longtime veteran followers who – unfairly – refused to acknowledge Toyota as a reputable contender due to lingering reminiscences of how Japan attacked the U.S. in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, resulting in the beginning of World Struggle II within the Southeastern Asia theater (it might be almost 4 years later that Japan would give up to the U.S. after atomic bombs have been dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Toyota tried to push constructive messages concerning the firm, together with the very fact a number of manufacturing vegetation had already been constructed within the U.S. (with extra to come back at the moment), and that Japan was now thought-about one of many U.S.’s closest allies right now.

    One different factor Toyota grew to become recognized for when it first got here to Cup and Xfinity in 2007 was a seemingly limitless price range. The corporate simply saved throwing boatloads of money at its groups, which unquestionably explains why Toyota grew to become successful in all three sequence so rapidly.

    Sadly, Toyota’s entry into NASCAR Cup couldn’t have come at a worst time, per se, as 2007 was not solely the primary 12 months introduction of the new-fangled “Automotive of Tomorrow,” it was additionally the identical 12 months the place each the U.S. and international economies basically started to enter meltdown mode, with issues going from dangerous to worse—together with in NASCAR—in 2008. After that, NASCAR reputation and curiosity waned dramatically—and has by no means recovered since.

    Toyota will possible function the playbook for different producers to doubtlessly come into the game. It’s been rumored that Toyota’s chief rival in Japan, Honda, could also be NASCAR. Honda has been an enormous supporter of IndyCar open-wheel racing. And different producers, together with BMW, Dodge and others proceed to be talked about as potential candidates to race within the sport if issues – most notably financially – develop into higher.

    Observe Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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