By David G. Firestone
Last year, I wrote a My Thoughts On where I ripped Toyota for their lackluster performance in NASCAR. Well, what a difference a year makes. While 2014 was a year Toyota would rather forget in NASCAR, 2015 is a year they will treasure. Kyle Busch and Erik Jones won championships in The Sprint Cup and Camping World Trucks respectively. Add their NHRA accomplishments to the mix, and Toyota has become a true competitor in the big leagues of American auto racing.
Let’s look at Toyota’s 2014 stats, starting with the Sprint Cup. I’m going to add the Sprint Unlimited, Budweiser Duels and All-Star Races into the mix as part of my point. Speedweeks started quite well for Toyota, with Denny Hamlin winning the Sprint Unlimited, and his Duel race, with Matt Kenseth winning his Duel race. Toyota had a good showing in the Daytona 500, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race itself. After that, it seemed with the driver lineup they had, Toyota would have a strong season, after winning three of the four events at Speedweeks. With Kyle Busch winning the Auto Club 500 in March, and Denny Hamlin winning the Aaron’s 499 in May, it would seem that Toyota would have a decent season.
Sadly, Toyota didn’t win another points race for the rest of the season. Clint Bowyer would with the Sprint Showdown, but Toyota would not find victory lane for the rest of the season. In total, Toyota won 6 of 40 events in 2014, their Chase grid had only 3 drivers, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who raced in through points. Somehow Denny Hamlin was still alive at Homestead, but was a non-factor, finishing 7th.
They fared a little better, in the Xfinity Series, with 8 wins in 33 races. Toyota was even more of a non-factor in the championship. The Truck Series is their shining star, with 18 wins in 22 races, and Matt Crafton winning the championship. The Truck Series success is impressive, but their lackluster performances in the top two NASCAR National Series is nothing to celebrate.
Looking at their NHRA stats for 2014, it’s actually impressive. Toyota teams were very impressive in Top Fuel, winning 16 of 24 events. But because JR Todd couldn’t step up, Tony Schumacher would win the championship. Funny Car was even worse, with Toyota winning 5 races, and the three Countdown drivers, Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham, and Cruz Pedregon didn’t even crack the top 5 in points.
That was not a memorable year for Toyota, but one year later…
In the Sprint Cup Series, Toyota won 17 of 40 events, counting the Unlimited, Duels, All-Star Showdown, and All-Star Race. They also won The Coca Cola 600, The Brickyard 400, and the Ford Eco-Boost 400, which was won by Kyle Busch, which won him the championship. The Xfinity Series was a mixed bag. While Toyota won 11 of the 33 races, they were a non-factor in the championship. The Truck Series was theirs to shine, winning 14 of 23 races, and Erik Jones winning the championship.
2015 was a great year in the NHRA. Toyota continued their winning ways in the NHRA, winning 17 of 24 events. Antron Brown, devoted Toyota driver, stepped up in the Countdown, and won the Top Fuel championship. Funny Car was a great year as well. Toyota only won 4 races in 2015 in Funny Car, BUT all four of those races were won by Del Worsham, and all four were in the Countdown. His race against Jack Beckman was the best in this respect because that race eliminated Beckman from championship contention and secured Toyota’s fourth championship in 5 series in 2015.
Long story short, a year really does make a difference. I slammed Toyota last year, because their performance was lackluster at best. This year, I can’t say anything bad about Toyota’s racing program, and I look forward to 2016.
On another note, I’m proud to say that The Driver Suit Blog is up to 60,000 views! I love doing this blog, and I’m thrilled to reach 60,000! Thank you all!