The president of Toyota Racing Development calls it “unacceptable” and “ridiculous” that Toyota has won only eight of 31 Cup races this season.
David Wilson, speaking to reporters Wednesday on a Zoom call, expressed his disappointment in Toyota’s performance even as the manufacturer has three cars in the playoffs heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).
Toyota is on pace for its fewest victories in a Cup season since 2014. Still, its eight wins are more than Chevrolet’s total this season (six). Ford has won a series-high 17 Cup races. This will be the second time in three seasons Ford has won more Cup races than Toyota.
Last season, Toyota won 19 of 36 races. The manufacturer won at least 13 races a year the previous five seasons.
“We’re sitting on eight wins in 31 starts this year and that’s unacceptable,” Wilson told reporters. “That’s ridiculous. We’re better than that. We should be sitting on somewhere between 13 or 15 right now.”
Wilson used similar language in June with reporters when Toyota had won four of 12 Cup races to that point. He used the words “embarrassing,” “dog crap” and “unacceptable” in discussing a recent race and performance to that point.
Toyota is led by Joe Gibbs Racing with Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Erik Jones. Also with Toyota is Leavine Family Racing with Christopher Bell, who will replace Jones at JGR next year. Toyota also works with Gaunt Brothers Racing, which has Daniel Suarez, who is leaving for a new team next season owned by former driver Justin Marks.
Hamlin, who has seven wins this season, is headed for the next round after his Talladega victory last weekend. Truex is 32 points above the cutoff. Busch, the defending series champ, remains winless this season and is 21 points outside a transfer spot.
Wilson said that “as a manufacturer, we haven’t done as good a job as the Ford guys in particular. That’s on me.”
Wilson cited pit road mistakes as a reason that has impacted performance at times.
“We’ve lost too many because of a loose wheel on the last pit stop heading into the third stage because of missteps or mistakes on our part,” Wilson said. “This isn’t directed at any single team or driver. Those are the things that are unacceptable because we hold ourselves to the highest standard and it’s every part of the organization, every part of the performance of that car. That’s the part that is unacceptable.”
He also pointed the finger at Toyota and its engineers for the struggles at Martinsville in June. Although Truex won that race, Busch, Jones and Hamlin all finished 19th or worse.
“I’ll give you one example,” Wilson said of some of Toyota’s struggles. “Simulation. That’s a piece Toyota TRD takes a leadership role on and our sim needs to be better. We’re working on that very aggressively.
“We have engineers who do nothing but work on tires. The first Martinsville race … we were not ready for that tire that NASCAR brought to that race. Shame on us. We called ourselves out on it. I’d like to say that will never happen again.”
Martinsville will host the last race in the Round of 8 and be the final chance to drivers to advance to the championship race in Phoenix. Wilson said the manufacturer is focused on winning the final five races of the season.
“The reason I look at the next five races, going there with an expectation to perform, is because our cars are good,” he said. “To put it into perspective, we could just suck and just not be capable of running up front. The fact is we do have cars capable of running up front and by and large we’ve demonstrated that week in and week out. Again, it comes back to all the other things that are required in order to seal the deal and take the checkered flag at the end. I know the spirit with which we go to the racetrack each and every week.
“Our target was to get three cars into the final eight. It was four out of 16 and we only got three. We fell short with Erik. But then we expect to transfer all three to the final eight. We’ll be obviously crushed if Kyle doesn’t make it. … Phoenix our target was to get two Toyotas to the championship round.”
Toyota has had at least two cars in the championship race each of the past three seasons. Toyota has won three of the past five driver championships with Busch in 2019, Truex in 2017 and Busch in 2015.