Automobile - - Drives - By STEVEN COLE SMITH

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.

Mean­while, although

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

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