What a year it has been for Toyota in NASCAR this season. After a tough start in their first season in 2007, Toyota has surged to the front as NASCAR's best manufacturer.
In 2007, Hendrick Motorsports dominated the Sprint Cup season mainly with two drivers: Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. The two combined for sixteen wins and finished first and second in the standings with Johnson bringing home the title.
Hendrick's other two drivers, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears, both had decent seasons. Busch won the Spring Bristol event while Mears won the 600 at Charlotte.
Going into the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Hendrick looked to continue their dominance with newly added Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt filled Busch's seat after he announced he would leave D.E.I. Then Busch left Hendrick to go to Joe Gibb's Racing.
In 2007, Joe Gibb's Racing announced they would switch manufacturers for the 2008 season. After a long relationship with General Motors, Gibb's left for Toyota. Many questioned the move on whether the change would help them or hurt them.
Halfway through the season, the change has definitely helped them. At Daytona, Denny Hamlin posted Toyota's first win in a non-points event in the second Gatorade Duel race. Hamlin has one win this season at Martinsville and sits seventh in the Sprint Cup Standings.
Gibb's newly acquired driver, Kyle Busch, won Toyota's first points event at Atlanta in the spring. He then has backed that up with wins at Talladega, Darlington, Dover, and most recently, Sonoma. Busch is also the points leader and shows no signs of giving that up as the season grows closer to the chase.
Tony Stewart hasn't had a bad year, he's had bad luck. Stewart has no wins this year so far. In the Daytona 500, Stewart looked as if he had it won until Ryan Newman made a move on the final lap to take the win away from Stewart.
He had great run in the 600 at Charlotte until a flat tire with four laps to go ended his chance of victory. At Bristol, Stewart had a chance to win until Kevin Harvick took him out with three laps to go. If not for the bad luck, the 20 team should have a couple of checks in the win column. He sits ninth in the standings.
Seventeen races into the Sprint Cup Season, there is no letting up for Toyota and Joe Gibb's Racing.2008 is their year not only in Cup but in the Nationwide Series. Joey Logano won in his third start and Hamlin, Stewart, and Busch have combined to win twelve races.
All you can say is pure domination.
Chevy, Ford, and Dodge have their homework to do. Chevy and Dodge have four wins, Ford has three. Toyota has six leading the charge.
2008 may have been the start of the "Toyota Takeover."
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