Toyota admits it misses Kyle

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - SEPTEMBER 11: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, speaks with David Wilson, TRD President and General Manager on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on September 11, 2022 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As is tradition during the season-opening DAYTONA 500 week at Daytona International Speedway, executives from the three NASCAR powerplants – Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota – took time to address the upcoming season of competition with the sport’s reporters.

Last year, much of that talk focused on the new Next Gen car. But Friday, now with a year of competition under its belt – including a record-tying 19 different winners in the NASCAR Cup Series – the discussion was markedly more wide open than just the car.

Toyota’s David Wilson, Ford’s Mark Rushbook and Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell answered questions for more than a half hour on topics ranging from the supply chain (better than last year) to the movement of drivers and teams (Tyler Reddick from Chevrolet to Toyota and Kyle Busch from Toyota to Chevrolet).

“There are days that we’ll miss Kyle [Busch], and other days that we won’t,” Wilson joked of Kyle Busch, who won two NASCAR Cup Series championships with Toyota before moving to Richard Childress Racing’s Chevrolet team this season.

Another big topic of conversation was the migration toward hybrid technology in motorsports – something all three leaders said they are in favor of and noted was already happening in big ways.

“I think 2022 was obviously a revolutionary season with the new car and a lot of changes coming, so we see 2023 very much as evolutionary,” said Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Motorsport. “It’s good to see some of the changes in the cars that are being made and all the teams continue, and manufacturers continue to learn these cars, so it’s going to be interesting as we saw strengths and weaknesses across the three OEM’s last year throughout different parts of the season. I’m sure that’s going to continue as we go through 2023 as well, so definitely an evolution of the Next Gen car.”

Each of the men spoke about specific interests for their companies. And for Chevrolet, that included a question about winning the DAYTONA 500 – something it hasn’t done since Austin Dillon’s last-lap victory in 2018.

“We have won this race 24 times. .. and with that said, Chevy drivers won 3 of the 4 speedway races [in 2022],” reminded Campbell, the U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet. “Both Talladega races and then Austin [Dillon] won the transfer race at Daytona. So, we won 3 of the 4 there and we won both of the Atlanta races, however you want to categorize the Atlanta track.

“We have shown that we can do it, but we have got to do it here. You are exactly right, so we are definitely hungry for that. This is the weekend to go from 24 [wins] to 25 if we can get organized and get it done.”