CONCORD, N.C. -- Toyota is planning to move up to NASCAR's
top two stock car series and not everybody is happy about it.
The Japanese automaker, which has competed in NASCAR's Craftsman
Truck Series the past two seasons, announced Monday it will also
run its Camry brand in both the Nextel Cup and Busch Series in
NASCAR chairman Brian France gave his blessing to Toyota,
telling more than 200 reporters taking part in the first day of the
annual preseason media tour "Toyota has proven in the truck series
it can be a great partner. NASCAR offered them the best opportunity
to build their presence in racing in North America and we're glad
they are here."
Toyota will become the first foreign competitor in NASCAR's top
series since Jaguar ran in several races in the 1950s.
Team owner Jack Roush, who runs cars in each of the three top
NASCAR series and whose drivers have won two of the last three Cup
titles, offered a warning about Toyota's move up.
"If NASCAR manages to get in front of Toyota and tell them what
they want to do and enforce it, they'll be the first sanctioning
body that ever did that," said Roush, whose team runs Fords.
"I'll watch with some interest, I'd like to say from a safe
distance, but my distance is not far enough to be safe."
Toyota, which is becoming increasingly successful in the U.S.
even as General Motors and Ford struggle, has previously been
involved in American sports car racing and open-wheel racing. The
company has been known in the past for inflating the cost of racing
with its free spending, sometimes dominating the series and having
a major effect on the rules before leaving for greener pastures.
Toyota also competes in Formula One and reportedly has a budget
of $400 million a year.
"I'm concerned," said team owner Ray Evernham, whose team will
run Dodges in all three of NASCAR's top series in 2006. "But
NASCAR has to make sure that they keep a handle on it because, if
(Toyota) has got a billion dollars to spend, they're going to wipe
"If you can still win a championship on 20 million [dollars]and somebody
else is spending 50 [million dollars], it doesn't matter. But, if it takes
50 [million dollars] to win a championship, you're done. So, NASCAR, more
than ever, has to police things. There's a lot of work to do on the
"NASCAR has done a great job branding, a great job marketing,
helping everyone with business," Evernham added. "But, right now,
it's time to focus on what competition's going to be five years
In the truck series, Toyota brought in a costly factory team
approach, making quick inroads by producing the engines and chassis
for all of its teams.
Toyota official Dave Illingworth said that will not be the case
in Cup and Busch.
"There will be no Toyota branded teams or cars," he said.
"Teams will bring their own sponsorship and we will provide only
technical support, much as the other manufacturers in those series
have done in the past."
France said he believes Toyota, which will also continue to
compete in trucks, will approach the Cup and Busch in the proper
"They recognize that (centralizing their teams) wasn't how
NASCAR (works) and wasn't going to be in their best interest in the
future," France said.
Roush hopes that is the way it really works out once Toyota
becomes established in Cup and Busch.
"But they operated their truck teams as one program and made
the team owners just name owners only in order to justify what they
were doing," he said. "But they have the same cars and the same
engines and the same technology and wound up ruling that thing with
pretty much of an iron hand.
"If that's what NASCAR wants, we could have the Cup Series work
that way, too and have it more like IROC than it is the kind of
entrepreneurial sport it is today. But I don't think that's where
it will go. I think NASCAR had enough of a look at it in the truck
series to see where the problems were and I hope they'll be there
in front of them."
No teams or drivers were named Monday by Toyota, but the company
is expected to announced Tuesday at least part of its lineup. Bill
Davis Racing and a new team co-owned by Michael Waltrip and Doug
Bawel, president of Jasper Engines, are expected to be among those
But Greg Biffle, who drives for Roush and finished second to
2005 Cup champion Tony Stewart, doesn't care who Toyota aligns
"It doesn't bother me any," he said. "It's free enterprise.
C'mon, bring your best stuff."