You can tell that we’re getting close to the Daytona 500, news is picking up. We have been through several breaking stories over the last week including the addition of Toyota into the Cup ranks.
This announcement came as no surprise to anyone, as a matter of fact many thought it was one year too late. Many experts thought Toyota would come forward this next season in the Busch races and then move to Cup in the 2007 season.
The cars that have been released are of course Michael Waltrip-Jasper Engines, Bill Davis Racing and Red Bull Racing. The designs of the cars are nice, sleek and colorful.
The only problem I see with Toyota coming into Cup is the same argument I had when they entered into the Craftsman Truck Series. They are not an American car company. I know I should move forward from this, but it is still a sticking point with me.
We have several American cars that could provide the same diversification of competition that the Toyota does and soon Honda will. Pontiac is back with the GTO or Grand Prix, Mercury could come along with the same body style as Fusion. The body styles are the only thing left that identifies the cars anyway.
NASCAR was built on American cars. Yes some others tried in the early years, but they didn’t see any sense in spending money for our type of racing. Now since NASCAR is the fastest growing sport in America, according to Fortune magazine, the Japanese want to ride the wave to financial bliss.
This move will not help the American auto builders. Ford announced layoffs last week, how do you think those workers feel when they see Ford spending millions on racing instead of their jobs. Chevrolet had to resort to discounting their cars by millions to get a better bottom line, Ford and Dodge followed. Now Sunday races will be filled with the Japanese automaker flaunting it’s money in the faces of American race fans. Toyota is known for pumping any amount of money into racing it needs to in order to put their brand up front.
In a recent interview in Speedway Illustrated Mike Helton was quoted saying the success of NASCAR is “We make good decisions”.
For the most part that is true and it is also true that NASCAR has been down the road of some mistakes and they will normally take a look at those mistakes and back peddle if they have to. One of the things that Helton always makes clear is that they listen to the constituents and pay attention to those that got the sanctioning body where it is.
There has not been a great deal of negative comments about Toyota leaping into the Cup ranks. Most are glad to see the additional competition come forward to fight along side the American automakers.
I can’t help but think that the American automakers are part of that constituency that Helton talks about. In the sixties and early seventies the factories pulled out of racing, mostly because of spiraling gas prices. Since their return many Americans have purchased cars that win on Sunday. There are even special cars that Chevrolet has come out with to honor some of the drivers. The Earnhardt and Gordon Monte Carlo. So do we still assume that win on Sunday, sell on Monday? I think you have to consider that a very apt statement. NASCAR fans are the most loyal of any sport. The collectable business, though not what it once was is still very strong.
So when the Japanese automakers come on board for their moments in the sun and bask in the limelight of success in what was once the proverbial “American” sport of NASCAR racing, will we as Americans still run out on Monday to buy a new Camry?
Till next time, keep turning left, in an American car!