Success in the Sprint Cup Series could trickle down into the showroom floor, especially for Toyota drivers, who are prepared and excited for the debut of the sixth-generation NASCAR machine that will debut in approximately one week at Daytona International Speedway.
The new car features designs remarkably similar to its showroom counterpart and is expected to bring back one of the foundations of NASCAR’s past – win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
Drivers from Toyota’s NASCAR teams, including Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing – visited the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky plant in Georgetown on Thursday, a facility that produces the Camry, Avalon and Venza street models.
The group of Toyota drivers was also joined by NASCAR Hall of Famer and Fox television analyst Darrell Waltrip and two of the drivers – Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin – even drove a new Camry’s directly off the plant’s production line.
It was a flashback of NASCAR heritage and the reminder that some of the drivers’ biggest fans work on the assembly lines.
“It was great to have that sense of ‘hero feel’ that these people put on you, but they are the real heroes to me,” Kyle Busch said. “They are the ones that are out here busting their butts each and every day working long hours and shifts and everything else to make these vehicles, they produce these vehicles, they come off the line, they go to the sales force and the guys sell them. They are the true heroes here that allow us to do what we love to do and race out on the race track to win on Sunday so they can sell on Monday.”
Some within the sport have speculated that Toyota could be the most-prepared with their sixth-generation Sprint Cup Series cars. Matt Kenseth finalized a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing during the off-season and will driver Toyotas for the first time in his career. So far, he’s impressed with the manufacturer’s entire operation.
“I think for sure the Camry is the best looking one of the three and it seems to be the fastest so far as well,” Kenseth said. “I think all the manufacturers and NASCAR did a good job working together to not only make a really, really good looking car that looks a lot like the car that you can buy off the showroom floor, but that’s also going to perform well on the race track.”
Toyota entered the Sprint Cup Series in 2007 and recorded its first victory with Kyle Busch in 2008. The team is looking the secure its first Cup Series championship in 2013.