16 NASCAR XFIN­ITY SE­RIES

THIS MAY BE THE NIS­SAN IS­SUE, BUT MA­JOR SUPRA NEWS IS TOO IM­POR­TANT TO PASS UP

Super Street - - Contents - WORDS Sam Du

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.

RULE CHANGE

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?!

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