Sep 4, 2006
Toyota and the Good Ol' BoysBy JR Nerad
Will the Toyota Camry be a car NASCAR fans love to hate? Or will it be a car they hate to love? It's likely to be one or the other, at least at first, as the Japanese brand invades the unabashed citadel of down-home all-American racing -- Nextel Cup. And the time we'll find the answer to the question is looming larger because the Toyota Camry racecar made its first official on-track appearance just a week ago, piloted by Bill Elliott, Michael Waltrip and Dave Blaney. The venue was NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow test at Michigan International Speedway in anticipation of Toyota's entry into Nextel Cup racing next February.
While the entry of Toyota- and Honda-powered racecars in the Indianapolis 500 didn't signify the end of the world, that series has always had its share of foreigners -- from the Benz and Peugeot racers of its seminal days to the Lotuses and Coopers that became forces to be reckoned with in the Sixties. NASCAR, on the other hand, has never had a foreign make as a competitor. These days, with so many Toyotas being built in Kentucky, Texas and California, some might well look at Toyota as a "domestic" brand, but it will be fascinating to see the reaction of the Nextel Cup crowd when the Camry takes its first green flag. And it will be equally interesting to see what the reaction will be when it takes its first checkered flag, which you can bet it will sooner rather than later.
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