February 18, 2007 - Daytona - Toyota NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) and Bill Davis Racing (BDR) ushered in a new era in Toyota's motorsports heritage Sunday (Feb. 18) when the two teams fielded a total of four Toyota Camrys in the 49th running of the Daytona 500. It marked Toyota's debut in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition.
Three-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett posted Toyota's best finish in the No. 44 UPS Camry when he crossed the finish line 22nd. Jarrett, who won the Daytona 500 in 1993, 1996 and 2000, avoided a series of late-race incidents to bring his Camry across the finish line in the season-opener.
"For our first race as a new team with a new manufacturer, it wasn't too bad," said Jarrett, after the race. "We got strung out a little bit when the sun was out, but our car wasn't bad after that and it handled pretty good late in the race. We were kind of making our way along before the series of cautions late in the race. There are a few areas that we'll need to work on, but we managed to come out unscathed -- and get us a few points."
The other Toyota drivers competing at Daytona were MWR drivers Michael Waltrip (30th) and David Reutimann (40th), as well as Dave Blaney (34th) in the BDR entry.
Reutimann was forced to retire on lap 173 after collecting the spinning car of Jimmie Johnson. Blaney made contact with Ken Schrader on lap 185 after being forced down pit road to avoid a multi-car incident on Daytona's tri-oval.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to action at California Speedway, Feb. 25.
Toyota Scores Second Place Finish in Inaugural Busch Series Start
Dave Blaney scored a runner-up finish in the No. 32 Fan1st.com Camry in Toyota's NASCAR Busch Series debut on Saturday (Feb. 17) at Daytona International Speedway. Following an incident on the second lap that resulted in left side and rear damage to his race car, Blaney battled back in his Braun Racing Camry to cross the finish line just 0.460 seconds behind race-winner Kevin Harvick.
"We were tore up pretty early and didn't know how bad it was," said Blaney, following the race. "We knew from practice that this Camry was really fast, but the big thing with this car was the handling. The Toyota motor was fast and the car handled great. Kevin (Harvick) was just a little better in the end. The only way I could've passed him was on the outside, but there was no chance because the bottom of the track was the best."
Jason Leffler, driver of the No. 38 Great Clips Camry, started on the outside of the front row and led the first two laps of the race.
"It's great for Toyota and great for my Braun Racing team," said Leffler. "I just wish we could have stayed up front a little longer, but that's just the way it worked out there after getting in the wreck. I knew there would be some shuffling back and forth, but I never thought there would be a wreck that far up in the field early on. Obviously, we're really excited to be associated with Toyota and hopefully we can make history next weekend in California by being the first Toyota Camry to get to victory lane."
Toyota drivers who finished behind Blaney at Daytona were Leffler (22nd), David Reutimann (29th) and John Andretti (39th).
The next Busch Series race on the calendar is at California Speedway, Feb. 24.
Jack is Back: Sprague Gives Toyota First Daytona Win
A Toyota Tundra captured the checkered flag for the first time at Daytona International Speedway when Jack Sprague took the lead in a three-wide battle to the finish line en route to the victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season-opener.
Sprague started from the pole in the No. 60 Con-way Freight Tundra and used the help of fellow Tundra driver Johnny Benson on the last lap to pass race-leader Travis Kvapil coming out of the final turn. Sprague crossed the finish line just 0.031 seconds ahead of Benson in the eighth-closest finish in series history.
"It was awesome," said Sprague, after the race. "I can't thank Johnny Benson enough -- he won the race for me. He said he would go with me and he did. I saw him jump up there to the outside and I followed him and got a good run. I just can't thank Toyota enough for the great engine, Tony Furr (crew chief) and the guys at Wyler Racing for the great truck I had."
Mike Skinner (nine laps led) finished fourth, just ahead of defending series champion Todd Bodine. Ted Musgrave also scored a top-10 finish, crossing the line ninth. Tundra drivers AJ Allmendinger (15th) and Aaron Fike (16th) also scored top-20 finishes in the season-opener. Other Tundra drivers in the field at Daytona were Terry Cook (27th) and Tyler Walker (31st).
The next Craftsman Truck Series race on the calendar is at California Speedway, Feb 23.
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