Toyota announced Monday the manufacturer's plans to extend their participation in NASCAR to the Nextel Cup and Busch series in 2007. They will join Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet as they will become the first foreign automaker to offer manufacturer support in the top rung of NASCAR.
They will continue to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and expand their efforts to four Busch teams and between four and seven Cup Series teams. Those groups currently signed on to make the switch are Bill Davis Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and possibly Kevin Harvick Incorporated Racing.
"Next year, 2007, will be a special year for Toyota in more ways than one," said Dave Illingworth, Senior Vice President and Chief Planning and Administrative Officer for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. "Toyota will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the United States and we will be joining the NASCAR Nextel Cup series, America's premiere racing series.
"Toyota has been an important part of the U.S. Motorsports community for almost 25 years. We've competed and won in different series and on tracks across America. Toyota drivers and teams have won championships in a variety of different series. But, if you want to compete against the best in America, that means NASCAR."
Toyota teams in 2007 will run the Camry model, built and manufactured Toyotaout of 's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.
They will,however, not be permitted to use the same concept they use in the Craftsman Truck Series. Toyota operates their truck efforts as a single comprehensive program, with car owners serving basically as figureheads. For Cup and Busch series, though, Toyota will not centralize their endeavors, allowing teams to build their own cars and acquire their own sponsorship deals.
While some old-timers worry that a non-American car make may offend some of the hard lined fans, NASCAR clearly feels that it is a foot forward in their ever-growing attempt to gain global momentum for their sport.
"Toyota's entry into the NASCAR Nextel Cup series and Busch series is good for driver, teams and the fans," commented CEO/Chairman of NASCAR, Brian France. "This move provides for even more intense competition on the track between drivers and manufacturers, which will provide more excitement and fan interest. Toyota's entry also provides more options for drivers and teams, which will increase the competition between manufacturers."
This year, Toyota is in the midst of observing their 24th year in American motorsports. They have won championships in IMSA, CART, IRL and off-road racing. Toyota has earned wins at such prestigious events as the Rolex 24, the 12 hours of Sebring and the Indianapolis 500.
Toyota and NASCAR first joined forces in 2000, when they fielded a Celica model in the Goody's Dash Series. Their biggest splash, however, came in 2004, when Toyota introduced the Tundra to the Craftsman Truck Series. Since then, they have garnered 13 victories and 18 poles.