Toyota executive: Long road to success, first Daytona 500 win ‘humbling’

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David Wilson realized what was possible in the final practice for the Daytona 500.

That’s when five Toyota cars – driven by Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – drafted together around Daytona International Speedway during the Saturday session.

It wasn’t until the halfway point of Sunday’s race that Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, allowed himself to believe the manufacturer’s plans would pan out.

The plan resulted in four of the five cars leading 156 of 200 laps and Hamlin besting his Joe Gibbs Racing brethren and “adopted teammate” Truex to earn Toyota’s first Daytona 500 win in its 10th try.

“This is very difficult for me to put in words,” said Wilson. “I cannot articulate adequately what this means to Toyota. I’ll start by saying it’s our single biggest race in our company’s history.”

Hamlin edged Truex by .01 seconds for the closest finish in race history. Busch, who gifted the manufacturer its first Sprint Cup title and Brickyard 400 win in 2015, came in third. Edwards, who joined JGR in 2015 and gave Toyota wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500, was fifth.

Kenseth led 40 laps, but finished 14th after nearly wrecking out of Turn 4 on the last lap while trying to ward off Hamlin’s winning charge.

“We realized that our five cars working together could truly do something special on Sunday,” Wilson said. “But think about how many plans you put in place before the race as momentous as this. You can’t control what you can’t control. Most of the time those plans go by the wayside.

“But our teams, our drivers, had the discipline and the trust in each other to execute that plan to a T. To come all the way to the white flag, 1‑2‑3‑4‑5, and then it was a race.”

Toyota’s triumph comes 10 years after it entered the Sprint Cup Series in an attempt to “connect with the American fans.”

It made its first steps with Michael Waltrip Racing, Red Bull Racing and Bill Davis Racing. The 2016 season opens with all three teams no more after MWR closed shop at the end of 2015. Toyota’s latest chapter includes Joe Gibbs Racing, the team that gave the manufacturer its first Cup win 2008, Furniture Row Racing, which joined the manufacturer before this season, and BK Racing.

“It’s heart‑wrenching that none of the freshmen class are still with us,” Wilson said of those teams Toyota debuted with in Cup. “That’s not the end of the story that any of us wanted to see.”

The origins of Toyota’s winning strategy are in the first meeting between Wilson, Joe Gibbs and Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser over dinner.

“I sensed there was a level of trust in each other and a shared value structure that could allow this collaboration to actually succeed,” Wilson said. “On paper it all looked good. But it’s up to the men and women in both of those shops to execute that collaboration.”

That efforts to fulfill those plans couldn’t begin until Nov. 22 last year, the date of the end of the Sprint Cup season. That was the day Busch won the race and clinched the title and Truex finished fourth in the points standings, a career best.

Ninety-two days later, JGR earned its first Daytona 500 victory since 1993 when the team was with Chevrolet. Since, JGR has also competed under the Pontiac banner. Furniture Row entered the fray after a decade with Chevrolet.

“What they were simply able to achieve to get to the Daytona 500 was truly impressive all by itself,” Wilson said. “As far as today goes, let me be candid. There’s going to be a natural level of question amongst the four JGR drivers about this fifth team and driver. It’s not ingrained, it’s not natural for any type of organization to share and to work together in that fashion.”

That fifth driver is Truex, who almost earned his fourth-career Sprint Cup win and Furniture Row Racing’s third.

“Proud of how we worked together with the JGR guys,” Truex said. “That was important for us to kick off the year, try to start to form that relationship, showing those guys they could trust us, that we’re going to be a strong part of their team.”

Trust was something some NASCAR fans were slow to find in Toyota when it first braved the waters of the Sprint Cup Series in 2007 as a manufacturer that Wilson admitted was “not ready” for what awaited it. The executive called the long road to Toyota’s success “humbling.”

“Fans were apprehensive,” Wilson said. “I think it was a polarizing issue, Toyota being here in the sport. I think our struggles, it so much humanized us and showed everybody that we’re going to have to work as hard as anybody. Nothing comes easy.”

NASCAR Cup Series results: Ryan Blaney wins at Charlotte

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney outran William Byron over the final miles and through several restarts to win Monday’s 600-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney thus ended a 59-race winless streak and qualified for the Cup playoffs.

Following in the top five were Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

Charlotte Cup results

Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — It was the longest wait for the longest race, and it ended on a very long day. And it marked the end of a long winless streak.

Ryan Blaney sprinted away from William Byron in the closing laps of Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ended a 59-race winless streak.

Byron finished second and was followed by Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

MORE: Charlotte Cup results

Blaney pushed through several late-race restarts and held on to finally write finish to a frustrating losing string. The win marked the first time long-time team owner Roger Penske has won both the Indy 500 and Coke 600 in the same year.

“You start to get to feel like you can’t win any more when you don’t win for a while,” an emotional Blaney told Fox Sports after the race.

Following the lead of his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who won Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 and went into the stands to celebrate with fans, Blaney ran into the CMS frontstretch grandstands after grabbing the checkered flag.

Contender Kyle Larson lost control of his car on a restart with 26 laps to go, starting a crash that also involved Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell.

He had maneuvered his way through a web of crashes and outran Byron, whose team kept him in or near the front with a string of fast pit stops.

The race was postponed by rain Sunday and was delayed by showers Monday. Rain had soaked the track most of the weekend, postponing the Cup and Xfinity Series races and cancelling Saturday night’s Cup practice and qualifying. Monday’s forecast was better, but the weather refused to cooperate. Rain interrupted the Xfinity race, which started at 11 a.m., and another shower stopped the Cup race during the second stage.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which advertises itself as “America’s Home for Racing,” had become America’s home for raining.

Blaney, 29, scored the eighth win of his career. He last won at Daytona International Speedway in August 2021 and had posted four runnerup finishes during that span.

A mid-race collision between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin left their cars seriously damaged and their feelings hurt. They were racing in close quarters on lap 186 when extended contact between the two cars sent Hamlin hard into the wall, resulting in major front-end damage. Elliott’s car sustained serious rear damage.

Hamlin said Elliott had a “tantrum” and that he should be suspended for the next race for what Hamlin called “a right rear hook.” Elliott denied intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

A few laps earlier, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski crashed.

The third-stage win went to Blaney. Following were Reddick, Truex, Byron and Ty Gibbs.

Chris Buescher won the second stage, leading Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Joey Logano and Gibbs.

Byron won the first stage, leading a three-way battle with Christopher Bell and Blaney on the 100th lap. Bell was second, Blaney third, Reddick fourth and Truex Jr. fifth.

A crash involving Bubba Wallace and Aric Almirola resulted in the drivers having a tense red-flag discussion. Almirola shoved Wallace before the altercation was broken up.

Stage 1 winner: William Byron

Stage 2 winner: Chris Buescher

Stage 3 winner: Ryan Blaney

Who had a good race: Ryan Blaney had the day’s fastest car and held off a following herd over the final miles. … William Byron was strong throughout the race but couldn’t challenge Blaney at the end. … The fourth-place finish by Bubba Wallace and the fifth-place run by Tyler Reddick marked the first time 23XI Racing has put two cars in the top five in a points race.

Who had a bad race: Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had a tough day in his third race of the year. He lost control of his car in Turn 2 74 laps into the race and slapped the outside wall. He lost a lap in the pits and ultimately finished last. … Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin had top-10 cars but both left the race after a controversial collision near the halfway point.

Next: The series moves on to World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois for a June 4 race at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott involved in big crash at Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. — Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott were involved in a big crash midway through Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and each blamed the other.

Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall near the start-finish line, and his car made contact with Hamlin’s Toyota, sending Hamlin slamming into the wall. The front end of Hamlin’s car was smashed. Elliott’s Chevrolet also was damaged.

Both drivers parked for the evening, and neither was happy.

Hamlin said Elliott had a “tantrum” and said he should be suspended from next week’s race.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Elliott had a different view.

“The 11 (Hamlin) put me in the fence, and once you take the right sides off these things it’s kind of over,” he said. “Once you hit the wall in these things, you can’t drive them any more.”

Elliott denied intentionally hitting Hamlin, saying the crash was “unfortunate circumstances.”

Brad Keselowski hit the rear of Elliott’s car after the initial contact between Hamlin and Elliott.

After the crash, Hamlin tweeted data in support of his contention that Elliott drove into him.

 

 

 

More rain postpones conclusion of Charlotte Xfinity race

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CONCORD, N.C. — Despite an improving forecast, rain continued to plague NASCAR and its drivers Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The twice-rescheduled Xfinity Series race was stopped twice because of weather Monday after finally getting the green flag, and the conclusion of the 300-mile race was postponed until after the completion of Monday’s rescheduled 600-mile Cup Series race.

Forty-eight of the race’s scheduled 200 laps were completed before weather and the impending scheduled start of the Cup race intervened.

When (or if) the race resumes Monday night, it will be broadcast by FS2, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

After 48 laps, Ty Gibbs, John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Allgaier are in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first stage.