Toyota Moves Up to the Cup
Topics: Sprint Cup, Toyota
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.
25 January 2006
On Monday, January 23, 2006, Toyota announced that it will enter the Camry for competition in 2007's Busch Series and Nextel Cup. To me, this announcement was not unexpected.
For one, the Craftsman Trucks were built by modifying Winston Cup cars. So it should follow that turning a successful truck into a Nextel Cup car would not be too difficult for a company serious about its racing.
Secondly, Bill Davis Racing, since losing their factory support from Dodge in an incident involving Toyota trucks, had made no move to switch manufacturers to regain support. It was, to me, almost like he was just waiting for the Toyotas he knew were coming.
This is a very good move on the part of Bill Davis Racing. Most major teams have very close ties to their manufacturers. Unless a top team that has shown willingness to switch manufacturers (such as Penske) make the switch, Bill Davis Racing will be the top Nextel Cup Toyota team, with all the publicity that will come from Toyota advertising their new Cup Camry.
As of now, Toyota's 2007 Nextel Cup participation will be two cars from Bill Davis Racing, two cars from Michael Waltrip Racing, and two cars from an unknown team (but will be associated with Red Bull). Anticipated drivers will be Michael Waltrip, Dave Blaney, Scott Wimmer (if he stays with Bill Davis).
As a side note, watch Michael Waltrip in that #55 Dodge this year, as it will likely be the only times you will see him drive a Charger in his career. His experience is a valuable addition to the Toyota effort. Although he will race a full season, and race to win, Waltrip will likely use his experience and play a role in testing similar to what Bill Elliott did the last two years when Dodge had been working on a new chassis and the Charger.
Toyota's NASCAR participation actually began back in 2000, with the Celica in the Goody's Dash Series. They entered their first V8 in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2004 and have competed successfully, winning 9 races in 2005.
Reaction in the NASCAR community, though, seems mixed. In a poll on NASCAR.com, as of 11:40 AM January 25, 31% liked the idea, 46% didn't and 23% just don't care. In another NASCAR.com article, Ford drivers (Greg Biffle in particular) question the ability of Toyota to compete in the Cup in their first year. Personally, I think that has more to do with the teams involved than the cars they are driving.
Bill Davis Racing is not a top team, and Michael Waltrip Racing is a relatively new team. Toyota's support may improve their chances. After all, Ray Evernham managed to assemble a team with brand-new Dodges and be competitive in their second year, proving themselves when Bill Elliott won the Brickyard 400. But it's entirely possible that Toyota may fall flat on its face on the basis of not having a winning team racing in the new Camry.
Of course, we won't know how it all turns out until at least 2008.
©2006 Bill Crittenden
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|