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.