Toyota Performance; Advantage, Cheating or Just Working Harder?

Photo Credit: Noel Lanier/OnPitRoad.com

Throughout the history of NASCAR, when one manufacturer is seemingly outperforming the others, questions of equality and parity have always become the center of discussion.
This past week, Team Penske driver, Brad Keselowski, took to social media to express his displeasure of Toyota’s performance.

Thanks to our unprecedented level of access today, we were also able to see the response from the Toyota camp.


So, the topic of discussion this week is Toyota and their on-track performance. Is it truly an advantage based on the specifications allowed by NASCAR? Or is it that the Toyota teams are cheating in some way? Could it be the fact that these teams have simply worked hard to improve their performance?

Unfortunately, as with almost any question posed to a race fan or driver, one’s response will likely vary depending on their personal perspective and preference.

If someone is a Toyota fan, they will likely say “They are just working hard and out running the competition.” Alternately, if someone is a Ford or Chevy fan, the response will most likely lean toward “NASCAR needs to do something, they have once again screwed up the sport.”

So, let’s try to look at this logically, and see what we can determine.

Does Toyota have an advantage because of the rules set forth by the sanctioning body?

Well, here is the data. Currently, Chevy currently has ten wins on the season. Toyota now has nine. Ford follows just behind with eight. That’s pretty equal.
Now, granted, Toyota has been very strong lately. But, have we already forgotten the concerns earlier in the season when everyone was asking, “What’s wrong with JGR?” “What’s wrong with Toyota?”

Truex won the third race of the season. Toyota did not visit victory lane again until race No. 11 when Truex won Kansas. By this time, Ford had scored five wins to Chevy’s four. Where was the Toyota advantage then? This brings up another question. Have there been any rule changes since that time that could have favored Toyota specifically? I have not been able to find any.

Is Toyota cheating?

Well, let’s be honest, Denny Hamlin did recently get busted at Darlington in Xfinity and Cup. Hamlin won the race, but failed post-race inspection due to rear end violations. An infraction that led NASCAR to stiffen the penalties for this type infraction.
If JGR is sharing this information with its satellite team, Furniture Row Racing, perhaps that would explain the outstanding performance of the No. 78 team. It sure didn’t seem to have any effect on Truex this weekend at Chicago. He was extremely fast and found victory lane once again.

Speaking of cheating, remember how fast Logano and the Fords were early in the season? Logano got busted for a similar infraction at Richmond, then proceeded to run terrible for the next several races and ultimately missed the playoffs. Did the loss of this advantage have an effect on the No. 22 team and maybe all Fords?

If you are thinking this article is going Toyota’s way, just hold one second. Let’s look at more stats. What about laps led? Also, don’t forget stage wins. Toyota’s have a significant advantage in the laps led department. Truex and Busch lead the way with 1723 and 1434 respectively. The next closest competitor is Kyle Larson with 971. That’s a pretty telling stat. Of course, we all know that Martin Truex Jr dominated the stage wins. His spotter told us the count every time he won. Maybe they do have some advantage. But is it rules related?

Perhaps the Toyota teams simply worked harder to catch up because they were behind. We have seen cyclical changes throughout the years in NASCAR. Chevy’s will dominate a while, then Fords. For while in the 80’s it was Buick and Pontiac. Today it is Toyota.

I tend to believe these things happen in this sport. Right now, Toyota has it figured out. They have touched on something that has made them fast. The Cup garage area is the worst keeper of secrets on the planet, so, eventually, someone will figure out what the Toyotas are doing.
I also believe that Roger Penske is a very smart man. He stated that he does not believe Toyota has an advantage. “I think the Toyota cars have been running well. I think you have to look at the scoreboard right now and at least the last several races we’ve not had the speed that we’ve wanted.” Penske did add that he believes Kyle Busch would rather be driving a Toyota right now instead of a Ford.

Ford and Chevy teams will go back to the drawing board and find a way to get better. It is in NASCAR’s best interest to have parity, so the sanctioning body will search for any advantages in the rules one group may have over the other.

Until that happens, we should sit back and enjoy the show. We have some great personalities in this sport, and we have the tremendous access to witness those personalities in action. Plus, we get to argue with our buddies about who is right, Brad or Kyle.

7 Comments

    • Just curious Tim, where in the rules today does it state that a manufacturer is required to produce an engine available to the public that has pushrods? Also, why do you feel Toyota ruins any form of motorsports it enters? Toyota seems to have more sponsorship activation than any other manufacturer. They seem to be very engaged in the sport.
      Thanks for reading!

  1. truex was dominating in the chevy when cole pearn came in. If I was going to start a team, cole pearn would be my choice to run it

  2. I thinks laps led tell the entire story. Toyota, if not for having over driven their cars and wrecking, would have won a ton more races. I completely agree with Keselowski and would take it further by stating that I believe Toyota periodically throughout the year would “sand-bag” races, but when push came to shove would always seem to find an extra inch of gas pedal.

    I can’t count the number of times when a Toyota driver would toy (no pun intended, unless you laughed) with the second place car, unless it was another Toyota. Remember the December DARLINGTON race when Hamlin and Busch were battling, they lapped the entire field save for 6 other drivers, 3 of them were Toyota, and the third place was almost a half a lap back. They could have lapped every car in the field (except other Toyotas of course) that race.

    Regardless, of whether Bill France is giving in to all that Toyota cash or not, and ignoring what is right in front of his eyes, the impression is being shared by the majority of NASCAR fans he is. I think the Drivers are beginning to voice they have the same opinion.

    Danica Patric said she wants to race if she has a team behind her and can remain “competitive”, and if not, she’s ready to move on. I cannot help but wonder if these thoughts are behind some of the other out-of-the-blue retirements that have been occurring.

    It would make sense to me that all of them are thinking that if they cannot be competitive (code for “drive a Toyota”), why risk my life? I could be wrong, it will not be the first or the last, but I do believe that I am just writing and thinking what millions of other Ex-NASCAR fans are seeing.

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