This Week in Motorsports – February 4 – 17, 2019
Toyota Racing On-Track this Week
· MENCS/NXS/NGOTS: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida) – Feb. 8-10 and 14-17
· NHRA: Auto Club Raceway (Pomona, California) – Feb. 8-10
· ARCA: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida) – Feb. 9
· NKNPSE: New Smyrna Speedway (New Smyrna, Florida) – Feb. 10
· USAC: Bubba Raceway Park (Ocala, Florida) – Feb. 8-9
NASCAR National Series – MENCS | NXS | NGOTS
It’s All About the Fans… The Toyota Injector continues to remain popular with fans at Daytona as the 166,000 square foot activation continues to span four levels and feature numerous Toyota activities, vehicles and displays. The 2016 Daytona 500-winning Camry Hamlin drove to victory returns and is prominently displayed for fan photo opportunities. The Toyota Racing Experience, formerly Toyota PitPass, is also located outside the Injector. It includes a virtual reality pit stop experience, a half-production Camry and half-NASCAR race car Camry, appearances by NASCAR drivers, Toyota vehicles for fans to explore with product specialists and a Toyota Outfitters boutique selling Toyota Racing merchandise. The Toyota Racing Experience also includes Toyota Thrill Ride, which features two closed course tracks where racing fans can enjoy a ride in Toyota vehicles.
Clash Kicks off Cup Season… The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) kicks off the 2019 season with The Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, Feb. 10. Four Toyota drivers will compete in the non-points event after winning pole awards in 2018. Camry drivers include Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. Toyota has four Clash titles to its name with Busch (2012), Hamlin (2014, 2016) and former Camry driver Matt Kenseth (2015) all scoring victories in the season-opening event.
Team Toyota Debuts Lineup… Toyota’s MENCS lineup debuts at Daytona with some familiar faces at the wheel. Busch, Hamlin, and Jones return to their respective Camrys competing for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Meanwhile, Truex makes his JGR debut in the No. 19 Camry as he continues to compete in a Toyota for an eighth season. Truex previously piloted a Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing (2010-2013) and Furniture Row Racing (2016-2018), winning the manufacturer’s second driver’s title in 2017. Also returning to the Toyota family is Matt DiBenedetto, who will pilot the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing (LFR) Camry, which switched to Toyota for the 2019 season.
The Legend Returns… The wait is over as the Toyota Supra makes its NASCAR debut at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS). In January, it was announced that the iconic sports car would return to production later this year, but fans will get a first look at the Supra in race car form beginning at Daytona. Full-time NXS drivers Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones have both expressed the desire to become the first drivers to put the Supra in victory lane as both will compete for their first win at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Truckin’ On at Daytona… Toyota has a series-best eight victories at Daytona among manufacturers in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS) with all eight wins coming consecutively from 2007-14. Several drivers have the opportunity to continue adding to the win count including father-son duo Todd and David Gilliland. Todd, who will pilot the No. 4 Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, will make his debut at the 2.5-mile track while David, who will pilot the No. 17 Tundra for DGR-Crosley, will make his third career NGOTS start.
NHRA – Top Fuel | Funny Car
Todd Begins Title Defense… J.R. Todd begins his title defense this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the same track where he clinched his first NHRA Nitro Funny Car championship with a victory in November 2018. In just his second season in a Funny Car, Todd stormed to the title by winning three of six races in the Countdown to the Championship and advancing to the finals five times. He earned a 20-3 record in the Countdown to the Championship. Overall, Todd led the series in wins (six), round wins (44) and semi-final round appearances (13). He heads into the season-opener after a strong showing at the NHRA Spring Training in Phoenix, where he ran the second-quickest pass of the week and registered a top-three pass in testing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Langdon Ready to Break Through in Funny Cars… After going through expected growing pains in his inaugural season in a Funny Car in 2018, Shawn Langdon appears ready to break through to earn his first win in 2019. Langdon, the 2013 Top Fuel world champion, was second-quickest in last week’s Arizona Spring Training testing session despite an early shut-down and also placed third in Friday’s testing. Langdon’s Camry team was strengthened with the recent announcement of former Camry driver Del Worsham joining the Kalitta Motorsports operation as a co-crew chief on the car along with Nicky Boninfante. The Worsham/Boninfante duo has already captured one world championship for the team (2015), when Worsham drove to the Funny Car title with Boninfante serving as co-crew chief.
Todd and Langdon Seek to Join Select Company… Camry drivers Todd and Langdon each look to become the fourth driver in history to win the NHRA Winternationals in both Funny Car and Top Fuel this weekend. Should either find their way to Victory Lane, they would join NHRA legends Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi in winning both Nitro classes.
Brown Motivated for 2019… Antron Brown is ready to one-up his 2018 season after scoring just one victory in his 11th year competing in Top Fuel. A three-time Top Fuel champion, Brown’s single win came at the NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle when he became the fourth driver in NHRA history to reach 50 Top Fuel victories. While Brown has yet to win at the Winternationals in Pomona, he’s come close several times. Last year, Brown advanced to the semi-finals before falling to Tony Schumacher by ten thousandths of a second.
Regional Stock Car Racing – ARCA | NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Going for Two at Daytona… Toyota driver Michael Self will defend his 2018 race win at Daytona on Saturday, Feb. 9 in the ARCA Racing Series. Self won last year’s event following a second overtime restart to give Venturini Motorsports its fourth-consecutive victory at the 2.5-mile track. This season, Self will run his first full-time season in ARCA and compete for the championship.
Bill McAnally Racing Goes East… Several drivers in Toyota Racing’s driver development program head east to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) season-opener at New Smyrna Speedway on Sunday before returning to their full-time driving duties in the K&N Pro Series West. Hailie Deegan and Brittney Zamora will compete with Derek Kraus as newly minted Bill McAnally Racing teammates. Deegan and Zamora were announced earlier this year as the first female teammates to run full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Zamora makes her rookie debut in NASCAR Pro Series competition, while Deegan and Kraus return for their second and third full-time seasons, respectively.
New Year, New Look… Toyota teams have a new look in the NKNPSE with several new faces behind the wheel. Hattori Racing Enterprises will return to full-time ARCA competition for the first time since 2014 with driver Max McLaughlin. McLaughlin is the son of former NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Mike McLaughlin and will make his series debut at New Smyrna. Following DGR-Crosley Racing’s successful season last year with series champion Tyler Ankrum, a new full-time driver, Tanner Gray, will transition to NKNPSE competition after clinching the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock championship.
Midget Racing – USAC | POWRi
USAC Kicks Off in Florida… The USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget schedule kicks off with a double-header at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. on Feb. 8-9. Defending series champion Logan Seavey will lead the Toyota contingent with 2018 POWRi champion Tucker Klaasmeyer, Kevin Thomas Jr., Cole Bodine, Chad Boat and C.J. Leary all expected to be leading contenders for the 2019 crown.