Published September 6, 2007
|Joe Gibbs Racing Officially Announces
Move From Chevrolet To Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing yesterday officially announced that it is ending its 16-year relationship with GM and switching to Toyotas next season. JGR President J.D. Gibbs indicated that JGR “wanted to take more of a leadership role in the industry, something that wasn’t always easy within the GM key partnership group” of Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Childress Racing (ESPN.com, 9/5
). Gibbs: "We’re going to have more of a leadership role (with Toyota), that’s probably the key thing [to making the move].” Tony Stewart, who drives JGR’s No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, said, “The only way you constantly stay ahead of the game is to put yourself in position to be leaders, not followers” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/6
). Gibbs, on move to Toyota: "What weighs heaviest on my mind is what's best for our 430 employees, what's the best thing for our partners, what's the best thing for our fan" (ESPNews, 9/5
). USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan reports Toyota Racing Development will assign “at least a half-dozen employees to [JGR], including at-track engineers" for the Camrys of Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. JGR Senior VP/Operations Jimmy Markar said that aligning with Toyota is “akin to growing ‘by 100-plus people’ without hiring anyone.” Ryan notes Toyota is also breaking ground this month on a building north of Charlotte that will open next year as the “hub for 50 chassis engineers” (USA TODAY, 9/6
STEWART ON BOARD: ESPN.com's David Newton wrote that Stewart, who is negotiating an extension with JGR, “isn’t concerned that partnering with a foreign manufacturer will cost him fans.” Stewart: “From Day One I was with GM. We won a lot of races and a lot of championships. They became a part of my open wheel program and I’m a part of it” (ESPN.com, 9/5). ESPN’s Marty Smith noted if Stewart “wasn’t onboard with this thing, it wouldn’t have happened” (“NASCAR NOW,” ESPN2, 9/5).
TOYOTA IS NOW A PLAYER: In Charlotte, David Poole writes Toyota aligning with JGR is the “true beginning of the manufacturer’s foray into" the Nextel Cup. This season, only 60.7% of Toyotas have qualified for Cup races. Next season, “it will be shocking to see fewer than two Toyota teams in the Chase for the Nextel Cup” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/6). ESPN's Smith: "This is their arrival. ... For Toyota, this is huge. Essentially, (they are saying) 'Here we are, we're here to stay, we're here to play and run for championships'" (ESPNews, 9/5). NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello writes the deal means “the end of the soft, somewhat hapless Toyota we’ve known for much of this season. That was but an illusion. The real Toyota has teeth. It wins races and championships. It’s the reason other teams have been scrambling to find business partners.” Toyota “entered open-wheel racing the same way, quietly at first, before leaving with a case full of trophies and in search of new lands to conquer” (NASCAR.com, 9/5). ESPN.com’s Newton writes Toyota “pulled off the equivalent of Babe Ruth being sold by the [Red Sox] to the [Yankees], creating a potential rivalry between Chevrolet and Toyota that this sport so badly needs.” Unless something “drastically changed, JGR always would be at least 1B to Hendrick Motorsports at GM,” but at Toyota, JGR “clearly is at the top of the food chain.” Toyota will also offer the team “more technical support" with 224 new employees (ESPN.com. 9/6).
|JGR Hoping To Benefit From Extra Attention
As Toyota's Top Nextel Cup Team
FAN INTEREST: Research conducted for the Ipsos Insight 2007 NASCAR Brand Tracker indicates that awareness for Toyota’s involvement in NASCAR has increased significantly among both fans and non-fans in '007 compared to '06. Awareness among fans is 68%, up from 53%, and for avid fans is now 86%, up from 66%. NASCAR says its fans are eight rimes as likely to say Toyota is good for the sport (48%) than bad for the sport (6%); only about 10% of NASCAR fans have negative feelings towards Toyota’s involvement in the Nextel Cup. NASCAR research showed that about 93% were "favorable or neutral" about Toyota entering Nextel Cup racing (NASCAR).