THE NEWS SEEMED exciting in July when Toyota announced a full 2019 racing program for the new Supra. But read the press release a little further, and the news was, at best, confusing:
The program would be in NASCAR, where the Supra would replace the Camry in the Xfinity series.
Huh? Yeah, that’s what we thought. And still think.
This NASCAR Supra will have a 650-horsepower V-8 engine, sticky slick tires, a custom-built roll cage, a manual transmission, and a top speed of close to 200 mph. If that sounds like the specs for the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Camry, there’s a reason for that—underneath the body that, thanks to decals and side-window blackouts, sort of resembles a Supra, it’s still a Camry.
At the introduction of the NASCAR Supra, a Toyota executive stressed that the Supra is not expected to replace the Camry in NASCAR’s top-level Monster Energy Cup series the way the Chevrolet Camaro migrated from Xfinity to Cup in 2018 and the Ford Mustang moves to Cup in 2019, replacing the lame-duck Fusion. David Wilson, president of Toyota
Racing Development, likes having three models of Toyotas in NASCAR competition—the Tundra pickup (though only one of the top-running Toyota trucks actually uses a Toyota engine), the Camry, and soon the Supra.
Automobile was one of a handful of media outlets invited to preview the Supra race car in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Toyota’s race facility, and then in the wind tunnel. The composite-body Supra makes for a handsome racer, though the only real design tips from the street model are the nose, the tail, and the rear side window, which is essentially a decal that resembles a window, as it is on all NASCAR-approved models.
As with everything NASCAR approves, each new car must perform in the wind tunnel at essentially the same level as every other car. Aside from the nose and tail, the Xfinity Supra is pretty much the Camry, including under the skin, down to the 5.8-liter pushrod V-8 with a carburetor (fuel injection hasn’t leaked down from the Monster Energy Cup series yet) and a four-speed manual transmission. The NASCAR Toyota Supra will make its race debut at Daytona International Speedway in February.
Toyota hasn’t made an official announcement, it seems likely a road-racing Supra, developed by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing affiliate, will see the light sooner rather than later, possibly as a
GT3 or GT4 entry. But for now, Toyota will admit only to the NASCAR program. AM