Camry of the new Red Bull Racing team
Anyone watching closely over the past several seasons
has undoubtedly concluded that when Toyota decides to take part in a racing series
it makes a full-throttle commitment.
No one expects anything less from Toyota as it enters
Nextel Cup and Busch Series racing come 2007. But while the number of Cup Camrys
on the grid next year won’t be huge, it will contain a major surprise: Red Bull,
the energy drink giant, will become a Toyota team owner in NASCAR.
Team Red Bull is starting from absolute zero, with
just more than a year to go before the 2007 Daytona 500. Team principal Marty
Gaunt says Red Bull has acquired the former Penske South Cup shop in Mooresville,
North Carolina, and is getting started on the process of putting together a Cup
team. In fact, Gaunt, who recently left his post with Jeff Hammond’s Toyota
Craftsman Truck team, says the energy drink maker plans to field a car, which
can’t be a Toyota, in several races late in the ’06 season.
Gaunt indicates the new team has no crew, no crew
chief, no drivers, and as yet, no equipment. But what they will bring to the table
is a strong commitment to performance, deep pockets, and unquestioned manufacturer
support. While their NASCAR learning curve may well be steep, Red Bull has shown
it can climb that curve quickly. The question for most of the rest of NASCAR’s
teams is can this model, wherein a sponsor owns an entire team itself, be made to
work in this segment of the sport. The only other company to attempt something
like this in recent memory has been Valvoline through their involvement in MB2
Toyota Camry of the Bill Davis Racing team
The balance of Toyota’s Cup team announcement Tuesday
night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway was surprisingly low-key. The carmaker will help
two other owners as well, for a total of six Camry-bodied entries beginning in
2007. The other two teams were of little surprise: Bill Davis Racing will make the
#22 Caterpillar team into a Toyota squad and will also run a second car. And
Michael Waltrip Racing, now in partnership with Doug Bawel’s Jasper Engines
empire, will also field two Camrys. Mikey will run his 2006 entry in conjunction
with BDR to prepare for ’07, though the teams will use Dodges in the upcoming
Toyota Camry of the Michael Waltrip Racing team
Michael told the assembled media he’d first been
invited to tour TRD’s motorsports facility last summer, and realized that Toyota
had the facilities and strength to help him realize his long-held dream of
becoming a Cup Series car owner. Toyota also plans to enter Busch Series racing
come 2007, though so far there has been no official announcement about teams or
drivers. Waltrip, though, indicated he plans to make his Aaron’s Dream Machine
Busch Series team into a Camry-bodied entry. Michael has retained the backing of
his major sponsors, including NAPA, for the new effort.
Davis Racing pilot Dave Blaney was also on hand for
the announcement and indications are he will remain the driver of the 22 car as it
makes the transition into the Toyota camp.
BDR has been a Toyota truck series stalwart the past
couple of seasons, a move that cost the Davis team a substantial Cup Series deal
with Dodge. Tuesday night’s announcement brings that manufacturer swap
Before Tuesday’s Toyota event, Robby Gordon
Motorsports hosted those on the Media Tour for a brief announcement as well. The
rumor mill had Gordon joining Toyota for much of the day Tuesday, and Robby as
well as Jim Beam officials jokingly denied any intentions to switch manufacturers
come 2007. Instead, Robby confirmed he’ll continue with his own Chevrolets
carrying the number 07 with principal backing from the liquor brand. Gordon’s team
will also continue using DEI engines this coming season, signifying a
solidification of his plans much sooner than in the previous campaign.
Gordon, one of the world’s busiest racers, is confident the coming season will be
his best yet in NASCAR. He says his team is starting to jell, his engine supply
should be stronger and more reliable, and their cars are improving week by week.
Gordon is never lacking in confidence; now it’ll be a question of whether he and
his team can deliver once they start racing for real.
Wednesday’s Tour activities open at the shops of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix
Sabates, and will also include the annual visit to Hendrick Motorsports.
Undoubtedly both car owners will be quizzed about Toyota’s NASCAR plans. We’ll
have the details here.
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