Toyota to enter Nextel Cup and Busch in 2007

Updated: January 22, 2006, 11:07 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Toyota will race in Nextel Cup events beginning in 2007, becoming the first foreign competitor in NASCAR's top stock car series since the 1950s.

The Japanese auto maker will also run the Busch Series races after the 2006 season, joining Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge. The announcement was expected at a Monday news conference from NASCAR's research and development facility in Concord, a person close to Toyota told The Associated Press.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn't been made, said Toyota "is looking forward to being competitive right off the bat" in both series.

The last foreign manufacturer to participate in NASCAR's top racing series was Jaguar, which entered several races in the 1950s.

The move by Toyota was not a complete surprise. The company moved into NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series in 2004 and quickly became competitive, with Travis Kvapil giving the manufacturer its first win in July of that year.

Toyota raced in several American-based sports car series before moving into open-wheel racing in 1996.

After providing engines for several teams in what was then the CART series from 1996-02, Toyota moved to the rival Indy Racing League, where it won 17 races, including four last year. The highlight for Toyota came when one of its engines powered Gil de Ferran to a victory in the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

The company was scheduled to continue to supply engines for IRL teams through 2006, but decided over the winter to withdraw immediately to concentrate on developing its NASCAR program, leaving Honda, its Japan competitor, as the IRL's only engine supplier for the upcoming season.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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