At one time, NASCAR was one of the most popular fan sports in the United States. Although in recent years it has experienced a decline due to economic factors, many notable automakers have participated since its inception. Nowadays, only three major automakers participate in NASCAR races: Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota.
Most consumers know Toyota SUVs and sedans for their reliability. However, the automaker’s cars also are quite fast: The revived Supra can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds. These cars can hold their own on the racetrack. But that’s not the only great thing about Toyota and NASCAR’s relationship.
Toyota joins NASCAR
According to TheThings, before NASCAR, Toyota had dabbled in open-wheel racing at the Indy 500. As the Indy 500 saw its popularity drop, Toyota left despite its many wins. It officially joined NASCAR in 2007 as the first Japanese automaker to do so. However, Toyota has proven to be as essential to the sport as its American counterparts.
In addition to enjoying some exciting wins, Toyota has sponsored two NASCAR races since 2012. The automaker also invested larges sums into NASCAR and its training programs, which gained respect from race fans. As a result, the U.S. sales of Toyota passenger cars such as the RAV4 compact SUV have also grown.
Some also contribute Toyota’s NASCAR success to its driver selection method. Since 2013, Toyota has sponsored youth academies and sends the most capable potential racers to its TD2 driver development program. Instructors help these young racers hone their skills and encourage good physical health.
As for the cars, Toyota Racing Development’s American and Japanese teams of engineers work together to produce powerful racecars. While NASCAR uses these cars in America, Japanese motorsports fans see them in All-Japan Formula 3 and Super GT competitions.
Which cars does Toyota race in NASCAR?
Toyota entered its debut NASCAR season in 2007 with the Camry. The consumer version of the midsize sedan exhibits sporty handling, especially on the TRD trim. It also comes with a rear spoiler, a splitter, and stronger anti-roll bars.
Apparently, the Camry’s racing engine was so powerful in 2008 that NASCAR had to intervene with a mid-season rule change. This is fairly uncommon, but NASCAR believed the Camry had an unfair advantage over the other cars. Despite these corrections, the Toyota Camry continued to dominate its competition, grabbing 10 victories that year.
The same year, Toyota delved into NASCAR truck racing with the Tundra pickup. In fact, decorated driver Kyle Busch drove the Tundra to a record number of wins in the NASCAR truck series.
Fast-forward to 2017, when the Toyota Camry was more capable than ever on the racetrack. A TRD-spec Camry comes equipped with a 725-hp V8, paired with a four-speed manual transmission, the TRD website says. Intensive safety features include a fire prevention system, window net, and foam designed to absorb severe side impacts. Each car is also subjected to a rigorous safety test both before and after races.
In 2019, the Toyota Supra also joined the ranks of NASCAR in its Xfinity racing series. The optimized Supra reportedly harnesses up to 700 hp and comes with several safety features and body enhancements. It snagged two wins in its debut year with Christopher Bell in the driver’s seat.
The automaker’s NASCAR success
Though Chevrolet has won the most NASCAR championships, Toyota has 148 wins under its belt, three of those being championship victories. Kyle Busch and his iconic M&M’s-adorned Camry have dominated the series with 40 wins. The success led to an extended contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, a longtime partner of Toyota.
Toyota’s success at NASCAR no doubt also strengthens the automaker’s already stellar brand loyalty. The impressive capabilities of the Camry, Supra, and Tundra inspire NASCAR fans to get models of their own.