16 NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
THIS MAY BE THE NISSAN ISSUE, BUT MAJOR SUPRA NEWS IS TOO IMPORTANT TO PASS UP
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you and you aren’t having a bad dream. Ladies and gentlemen, the Toyota Supra will be used in NASCAR beginning next year! Like many of you, we didn’t know what to think, especially after we were teased with a stunning, race-ready Gazoo Racing concept at Geneva Motor Show. But last July and on U.S. soil, we were introduced to the next phase of Toyota’s global strategy for the new Supra. To understand the move to NASCAR, we had to dig a little deeper, starting with TRD USA.
THE EVOLUTION OF TRD
For those of you who have been in the industry since the good ol’ days, you know the name TRD for performance parts developed in Japan. TRD USA was established in ’79 and began importing all of these cool JDM goodies for models like the Supra and Celica. In the beginning, TRD barely had any relationship with Toyota USA, but that would change in the early ’80s, as together they began collaborating and developing support programs for nearly every national motorsport. TRD became an Oem-backed resource for teams to advance their vehicles, and it just so happened that TRD became extremely good at winning nearly every championship possible (NASCAR XFINITY and Truck Series; NHRA; off-road racing and rally; Formula DRIFT; USAC racing).
SO, WHY NASCAR?
In ’03, Toyota and TRD had a big commitment to open-wheel racing (and even won the Indy 500), but they realized it wasn’t in line with the company’s goals and had very little correlation with the cars sold off their dealers’ lots. At the time, NASCAR was on the ascent and Toyota wanted to foster a stronger connection with the American demographic, especially to show that Toyota is more than just a Japanese company—that the company values motorsport and employs Americans.
Over the years, Toyota and TRD put more investment into NASCAR, winning several races and coordinating large activations at each track. They began to see a correlation between race wins, fans supporting the Toyota name, and buyers considering their cars. Many of us at Super Street may be quick to dismiss NASCAR, but it is still one of the most viewed events not only in motorsport, but in all sports in America.
While becoming successful at NASCAR has played a huge role for Toyota, there was still something that bugged all manufacturers competing in NASCAR for many years: Every car looked exactly the same, minus a sticker that read Ford, Chevy, or Toyota. This was, of course, done to level the playing field; however, in ’13, NASCAR officials modified the rulebook to allow more design cues from the production cars and trucks.
TRD enlisted the help of Calty Design Research, Inc. (Calty) to design the Camry, Tundra, and now Supra. Both would work together to achieve as much consistency between the production model and race car as possible, while still improving ontrack performance before being perfected in a wind tunnel.
SUPRA MAKES SENSE
So, here’s where it takes a little bit of an open mind when we say, “The Toyota Supra makes sense for NASCAR.” Most of us have fallen in love with the Supra from its racing in IMSA Camel GT Series and Super GT. We remember the Supra for the iconic Time Attack examples raced in Japan by the likes of Top Secret and JUN Auto, to the hundreds of shops around the world that’ve mastered the 2JZ-GTE. The DNA of Supra is performance and racing, and with NASCAR as the largest watched motorsport in America, doesn’t it make sense to use the Supra badge instead of the Camry?
At the heart of the Supra is that it’s meant to be raced, and with it going against big domestic brands like Ford and Chevy, we get what Toyota is trying to do. This is only a small piece of the puzzle for new Supra, and it’s a piece aimed at bringing in a whole new audience. What we have to wonder is if this will affect our perception and opinion of the new Supra. We hope not, as we’re still huge fans of Supra; however, since this is the Nissan issue, maybe the better question is: When is there going to be a new GT-R?!