Toyota teams competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017 will have a different look as the auto manufacturer has redesigned the Toyota Camry for the upcoming racing season to reflect the product that will arrive on the showroom floor later this year.
The new 2018 race car model, which will be used starting in the 2017 season, was unveiled Monday during the North American International Auto Show held at the Cobo Center in Detroit. The Camry race car was displayed along with the newly designed ’18 Camry production car.
“(It) is probably the most aggressively styled Camry in the history of (the model),” said Ed Laukes, vice president of integrated marketing operations for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. Toyota teams have won one championship, 30 races and made 10 total Chase appearances with six total drivers since 2015, the last time the automaker made any significant changes to its on-track product. This past season, its teams won 16 races, the most since the company began competing at NASCAR’s top level in 2007. It also won its first premier series manufacturer championship as well.
“You always look to strive to be better,” Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch said after the unveil Monday. “TRD and Joe Gibbs Racing as well as Furniture Row have been working really hard on this car, remodeling it to make sure that it’s a step up and not down.”
Teammate Denny Hamlin, defending winner of the Daytona 500 said the JGR organization is “excited” about the new model.
“A lot of hard work has been put into it to make these cars perform well on the street and the race track,” he said. “I have no doubt that we’ve done our homework in the offseason and we’ll have Camrys that we can race with (on the track).” One of the significant, although not visible, differences in the race car version is that NASCAR teams were involved in the process much sooner than with previous models that went from dealership to race track.
“Largely the first two shots at this (in 2013 and 2015) Toyota, TRD (and) Calty (Design Research) ultimately were responsible for the design and the initial performance,” said Dave Wilson, president and general manager for Toyota Racing Development, USA. “Then in the process you hand it to our team partners and they develop it further.
“This go round … we involved our team partners much earlier in the process and had them work with us side-by-side as we’re designing this because again, they’ve got very, very smart aerodynamicists.” The intent, he said, “is to be able to hit the ground running at Daytona (in February) , being further along than we have been with the past two generations.” NASCAR teams will open the 2017 season Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway with the running of The Clash (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), a non-points event. The first points race, the 59th running of the Daytona 500, is scheduled for the following week on Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“What’s better? It’s the same box of downforce and drag; every time a manufacturer has a shot at building a new car, evolving a new car, you try again, you work closer and closer to the corner of that box, and that’s the lowest drag and the highest downforce,” Wilson said. Changes to the car that was used in competition from 2015-16 focused on the front end, and Laukes said those changes were necessary to “be relevant to what’s on the street.”
“So we spent the resources … because we wanted to be relevant to that Camry (street car),” he said, even though the initial work on the 2018 model had already begun. The 2018 production Camry is scheduled to go on sale to the public in August. Toyota provides support to three organizations — Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing and BK Racing — in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, as well as multiple groups in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series.