What A Difference A Year Makes for Toyota

David KingContributor IFebruary 29, 2008

Toyota was barely making it's presence felt in it's first year on the major NASCAR circuit just one year ago.  Today 10 Toyota's qualified led by Kyle Bush.  It looks like the only Toyota trying to make the field that was not fast enough was the Red Bull #84 entry driven by A. J. Allmendinger.

Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin qualified 25th and 27th but don't be surprised if all three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are near the front at some point during the UAW 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday.  Stewart has been pretty consistent in all of the races he's run in so far this year so I would expect he'll have another strong run Sunday.

I think Toyota used their first year on the senior NASCAR circuit to basically allow the fans and competitors, both their new teams as well as the rest of the teams, to get use to having a new brand racing among the big three of the U.S. Automotive Industry.  Sure they needed time to become competitive, however as a GM engineer recently said to me, Toyota likely did not think it would be wise to be too competitive in it's first year in the Cup Series, so perhaps they were somewhat conservative in their approach.

One thing is for certain, Toyota has laid down the guantlet and is serving notice that they are now ready to run with the Big Boys of NASCAR.