toyota

Chevrolet boss happy with three-race Cup winning streak but wants more

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Even with a three-race Cup winning streak, the head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program wants more victories as the playoffs near.

Jim Campbell, vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, made the comments Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the last three races, Chevrolet has won with Alex Bowman (Chicagoland Speedway), Justin Haley (Daytona International Speedway) and Kurt Busch (Kentucky Speedway). Until that string, Chevrolet had won only once this year with Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year, Chevrolet had four Cup wins, its fewest victories in Cup since scoring three wins in 1982.

“We have really, really, I think, increased the collaboration (among Chevrolet teams) to another level, and I think we need to because we’ve got to put more wins on the board,” Campbell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The Chevy camp is used to putting 10, 12, 15 wins on the board a year. Right now we’re at four. We expect more of ourselves. I know the teams are looking for more wins and I’ll call it top-five finishes. Talladega was kind of a turbocharger for us to get everyone really working at the next level.”

Chevrolet won at Talladega after an increased effort to have its teams work together throughout the weekend and during the race. Chevrolet made the effort after seeing how successful Toyota and Ford teams were at Daytona and Talladega by working together. Until then, Chevrolet had allowed its teams and drivers to go their own way at those tracks.

“Over the years, Chevy results were pretty doggone strong without a massive work-together effort,” Campbell said during the radio interview. “I think we go back to ’16 and Toyota put together an effort to get some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys working together and I think in the fall, the Ford camp was doing that. So, it was time, it was time that we just pulled ourselves together and really worked across all of our teams.”

With seven races left until the Cup playoffs begin, Chevrolet has three drivers set for the playoffs via wins: Elliott, Bowman and Busch. Chevrolet also has three competitors who would qualify for the 16-driver playoffs as of today via points with William Byron 12th in the standings, Kyle Larson 13th and Jimmie Johnson 15th.

Johnson’s position is tenuous. He is 10 points ahead of Ford’s Ryan Newman, who holds the first spot outside a playoff position.

“I look at the trajectory,” Campbell said of Chevrolet’s progress. “Are we on the trajectory up or are we flat or are we down? I would say the momentum is going up, but it’s all performance based. We’ve got to put wins on the board, more top 10s.”

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Bump and Run: Who is next to score first win of Cup season?

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Who is the next driver to score their first win of the season?

Nate Ryan: Kevin Harvick … and the next win will be the first of at least a few in 2019.

Dustin Long: Ryan Blaney.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Larson gets it done at Kentucky.

Jerry Bonkowski: Kevin Harvick (but Kyle Larson is a very close candidate to also do so).

 

What do you predict will happen in the month of July in NASCAR?

Nate Ryan: Joe Gibbs Racing’s 2020 driver lineup will be solidified.

Dustin Long: Something surprising from the garage. Stay tuned.

Daniel McFadin: Martin Truex Jr. gets one last monkey off his back and wins his first superspeedway race at Daytona.

Jerry Bonkowski: I think we’ll see some clarity on the Joe Gibbs Racing situation vis-a-vis Christopher Bell and Erik Jones. I also expect to see at least one more first-time winner in 2019, and at least one winless driver in 2019 finally cashes in. I also expect to hear at least one driver being announced he will not be returning to his present team for 2020.

Chevrolet teams worked together at Talladega and the result was Chase Elliott winning. Will this newfound togetherness lead to a Chevy winning at Daytona this weekend?

Nate Ryan: No; teamwork seems to matter less in the night race at Daytona (and if there’s as much attrition as last year, it probably won’t matter at all).

Dustin Long: It will help them early in the race but attrition and circumstances will make it matter less at the end.

Daniel McFadin: It’ll be a challenge. Ford will probably fight fire with fire and Toyota will put up a fight. But plans only work until they don’t. I don’t think Chevy wins in Daytona.

Jerry Bonkowski: Given how dominating Toyota has been, Chevrolet has to rip a page from Toyota’s notebook to get itself back in the middle of the hunt not only for the manufacturer’s championship, but more importantly, to get several more of its drivers back in victory lane and put pressure on Toyota.

 

Clint Bowyer has finished 35th or worse in two of the past three races and then this week he was stung by wasps in a barn. What would you suggest for Bowyer so that his bad luck might end?

Nate Ryan: The man known for amateur pyrotechnic skills should host his own personal fireworks show Thursday night above Lake Lloyd, soaking in the goodwill from the infield campers that he will dazzle on the Fourth of July.

Dustin Long: Blow something up. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ve blown something up and got to feel good.

Daniel McFadin: Put a keepsake from his son’s recent championship on the diamond in his car.

Jerry Bonkowski: Call in an exorcist – and fast, before he suffers any more bad luck.

NASCAR President anticipates changes to 2021 schedule but not wholesale moves

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While NASCAR President Steve Phelps anticipates changes to the 2021 Cup schedule, he said Friday that “I don’t think there are going to be massive wholesale changes” to the schedule.

There is an anticipation for the 2021 Cup schedule because NASCAR’s five-year sanctioning agreements with tracks end after 2020 and give series officials more flexibility in reshaping where the series will race.

Phelps was asked about where things stood with the 2021 schedule Friday in an interview on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“We don’t have the schedule dialed in for 2021,” Phelps said. “Lots of discussions about where we would race. I think if you would look at the 2020 schedule, we moved things around and I think the fans, again from the research that we did, by and large were thrilled with the changes we made.

“I think there was an industry buzz. The drivers were excited, the teams were excited and most importantly, the fans were excited, but we’re racing at the same race tracks, the same number at each race track. So in 2021, we have new sanctions that we need to do for 2021 that will obviously dictate where we go.

“Will we go to exactly the same number of race tracks, the exact same number of events? We probably won’t. I don’t think there are going to be massive wholesale changes.

“With that said, we’re going to continue to listen to what the fans have to say because this is their sport and we need to make sure that we are giving them what they want. So a lot of listening, a lot of dialogue, working with our broadcast partners, working with our teams and our drivers, our OEM partners … hey, where do you want to be, what do you want to see, where would you like to race? So that’s the first part of the 2021 piece, a work in progress.”

Phelps also was asked about plans for the Gen 7 car, which is expected to debut in 2021.

“As it relates to a new car, it’s something we’re working very hard with our race teams and with our auto manufacturers, Chevy, Ford and Toyota, and they’ve been great partners to try to get us to where we are today,” Phelps said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I would say that we are on track.

“We look at the car in two pieces, right? So there is the body itself, chassis/body, and then you have the engine. The engine most likely would be a 2022 piece, so we have to determine to go new body style in 2021 or do you go new body style and engine at the same time in 2022?

“We’re trying to give ourselves some flexibility there, again we’re working with our race teams and their (manufacturers) to make sure that we do this right so we can put the best car on the race track that provides great racing as well as great styling that would have more kind of how the car (continues) to look even more like its showroom counterpart.”

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Dale Jr. Download: Joe Gibbs and the mystery of Carl Edwards’ retirement

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It’s been roughly two-and-a-half years since Carl Edwards stunned the NASCAR world in January 2017 with the announcement he was stepping away from the sport.

No one was more stunned than his owner at the time, Joe Gibbs.

“I would have to say that conversation might have been (in) my top five as far as shocks for me in life,” Gibbs said on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download (airs at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“They said, ‘Hey, Carl’s outside,'” Gibbs recounted. “It was after the season. I figured he was going to come in and wish me a happy offseason and good Christmas.”

Instead, Edwards sat down and said, “Joe, I think I made up my mind. I’m going to step out of racing.”

“I was sitting there and I go, ‘You do realize that every young guy your age wants to drive a race car and make a ton of money? Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?'” Gibbs asked Edwards.

What’s even more shocking is that in June 2019 Gibbs still isn’t fully aware of the reasons behind Edwards’ departure after the 2016 season.

“Never really ever really got to the (reasons),” Gibbs said. “He said, ‘I’m not going to share with you, I’m not going to share with anybody the real bottom lines.’ … I will say this right now, I feel good about it from the standpoint, we still talk every now and then. Last time I called him he was on his boat in the Bahamas. I said, ‘Well, you’re doing pretty good.'”

Edwards sudden departure sent ripple effects through the sport that are still being felt today when it comes to drivers.

Martin Truex Jr. now drives the No. 19 Toyota that Edwards piloted for JGR, having replaced Edwards’ successor, Daniel Suarez, after the 2018 season.

With a drivers stable of Truex, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones, Toyota and JGR find themselves with the challenge of what to do with Xfinity Series star Christopher Bell beyond 2019.

“That’s one of the challenges you’ve got, particularly in bringing along young guys,” Gibbs said. “It’s happened to us before and man, you get caught up in that, what’s the right decision? There are options there. We’re kind of considering everything. You’re trying to work your way through them. Of course, what we just talked about, the sponsor. How does the sponsor fit in all that. It gets to be really complicated.”

Gibbs discussed Toyota’s influence on Bell’s future.

“Honestly we don’t make any decision (without them), we’re constantly talking back and forth,” Gibbs said. “It’s a real partnership from a standpoint, we’re the ones that have to get the sponsors. So the race team is hard after it. … Some of these problems, if you remember back when we took Erik and he wound up going to the 77 over at (Furniture) Row (in 2017) and everything that happened there, those are tough decisions to go through and work through, but that’s the challenge of our sport. You can say what you want, but you’re not going to go anywhere unless you have great drivers.”

Also discussed in the episode:

  • Gibbs’ Hall of Fame NFL coaching career
  • Why Gibbs returned to coaching the Washington Redskins in 2004
  • Being elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame with his former drivers, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte

 

Hybridization of NASCAR cars not expected by 2021, Toyota executive says

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NASCAR and manufacturers have discussed the hybridization of future cars but one manufacturer executive said it won’t happen soon.

Relative to hybridization and electrification, quite simply, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of how and when,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development said Thursday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “A hybrid type of strategy is absolutely something that we’re looking at.

“Candidly, it won’t be something that we see as early as ’21. That’s, realistically, a little further down the road.”

NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton said May 20 on the Dale Jr. Download that a key to the Gen 7 car — expected to debut in 2021 — would be to “make room for what might happen next. Not in the short-term, but if the automobile industry and the racing industry go down the road with some type of electrification, the chassis should have room for that. In the motor component, whatever evolution we go to in the next generation of power plants for the cars … we have the opportunity with a clean sheet of paper to build a chassis that can accommodate that easily without having to tear a car apart.”

Brad Keselowski wrote an essay last May titled: It’s time: The NASCAR hybrid. Keselowski wrote: “Not only am I sure that hybrids are the future of NASCAR — I believe it’s essential to the success of the sport that we embrace hybrid technology as soon as possible.”

Hybrids have become more important for manufacturers, Wilson said on “The Morning Drive” on Thursday.

“You look across the motorsports landscape, you’re seeing hybridization and electrification everywhere you look,” he said. “That again is simply a reflection of the automotive culture on a global basis. Today, Toyota has eight different hybrid vehicles in their lineup.”

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, also was on “The Morning Drive” on Thursday and expressed the value of the Gen 7 car being able to incorporate hybrid elements in the future.

“I think Gen 7 gives an opportunity to bring more relevant elements of the car and the technology to what we’re selling in the showroom or what we’ll be selling more of in the future,” Campbell said. “Along with that is the ability of if we do that have an opportunity to attract more (manufacturers). So it all does really fit together. There’s still much work going on with the Gen 7.

“In terms of hybrid, I will tell you that every series we’re involved in, every single series Chevy is involved in … is looking at what is the opportunity to package protect or what are the options to include some element of hybridization. That’s really where it is right now. It’s in a discussion phrase. It hasn’t been locked down.”

In regards to hybridization coming to NASCAR, Wilson said on SiriusXM: “It is an inevitability from our perspective.”

Before the season, Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, said of hybrids: “As we change road cars, we’re not going directly from an internal combustion engine to electric. We’ll have hybrids along the way. I don’t know NASCAR needs to go full electric.

“Even if you continue racing the internal combustion engine, we get a ton of benefit from that and connection with the fans. The ability to put the hybrid in when the time is ready, that’ll continue to connect as fans’ cars and trucks go hybrid.”