David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the manufacturer is awaiting word on Michael Waltrip Racing’s future beyond the 2015 season.
MWR, which is mired in a two-year winless drought in the Sprint Cup Series, has been aligned with Toyota since its entry into Cup in 2007.
“Certainly in the near-term, we’re not sure what Michael Waltrip Racing is going to do,” Wilson said Tuesday on SiriusXM Radio’s NASCAR Channel. “They’ve yet to announce their plans. Certainly we have had a rich history in the sport together. We got our butts kicked together in 2007, our first year, and you forge very close and personal relationships when you have those trials together.
“Whatever they decide to do, we certainly wish nothing but the best for them.”
There has been speculation that MWR might be mulling a shift to Chevrolet and a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Despite MWR’s lack of wins, Wilson hopes to see both Clint Bowyer and David Ragan make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer is currently 16th on the Chase grid, while Ragan is 24th.
Bowyer has a tenuous hold on the last Chase-eligible spot. Kyle Busch, who missed the first 11 races with injuries, is 23 points from breaking into the top 30 in the standings. If he does so over the final six races of the regular season (a virtually foregone conclusion), Busch would take another slot on the Chase grid, and Bowyer’s provisional berth would depend on a win or climbing much higher in the points.
Bowyer faced a similar situation last season. He was Chase-eligible until the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, where he was ultimately eliminated.
The only way Ragan will make the Chase is by winning before the Chase begins.
With Joe Gibbs Racing likely to qualify all four of its drivers for the Chase, Wilson is hoping Toyota can add more championship cars in the future. He told NASCAR Talk on July 19 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that Toyota was talking to multiple teams, including Furniture Row Racing, about joining its lineup, and he reiterated that stance Tuesday.
“We are talking to a number of organizations about the future,” Wilson said.
As for Toyota’s flagship team, JGR has seven wins through 20 races this season: four by Busch and one apiece by teammates, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. It’s an improvement over making just two trips to victory lane in 2014, which Wilson said “was one of our worst years since we came into the sport, into the Sprint Cup Series and certainly one of Joe Gibbs Racing’s worst years.
“But we started that turnaround last summer, literally,” Wilson said. “That was when we got the big wake-up call. We just missed it on this no ride-height rule. Our engines were a little bit off, and we buckled down.
“Really the turnaround started, I trace it to Chicago of last year, almost a full year ago where our performance gradually started getting better. We were able to get the three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers into the Chase. Denny nearly won the championship at Miami, but that was, to be fair, more to do with the format of the Chase.”