Parity in NASCAR: Why it's up to the teams to bridge Toyota gap

Maybe Brad Keselowski was on to something when he alleged a lack of parity in the Monster Energy Cup Series.

Parity in NASCAR: Why it's up to the teams to bridge Toyota gap
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Chad Knaus
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Chevrolet SS detail
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota detail
Chevrolet Camaro detail
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford

In the last three months, Toyota drivers have won eight of the 12 races. Want to talk raw speed? Toyotas have won 12 of 26 poles this season — including Kyle Busch’s career-high eight poles for one season all earned in the last 16 races.

And the six Toyota drivers have led 4509 of a possible 7971 laps this season or 56.5-percent. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota alone has led 23-percent of all laps raced.

So, it’s not surprising the manufacturer’s dominance is a cause for concern among its competitors, including Keselowski, who questioned the supposed equality between manufacturers prior to the post-season kickoff at Chicagoland Speedway.

“We are all in for a rude awakening,” Keselowski tweeted on Sept 15. “Haven't seen NASCAR let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the 70s.”

Keselowski not backing down

While his comment triggered a twitter war from the Toyota contingent, the 2012 Cup champion — who finished fourth on Sunday but hasn’t won a race since Atlanta, 26 races ago — didn’t back down from his sentiments after Sunday's ISM Connection 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I felt like we were where we needed to be to win and to run up front with the pit crew and the setup,” Keselowski said. “Just kind of lacking a little bit with aero stuff to keep up, but at this type of track, aerodynamics are a little less important, and I felt like it helped us run a little bit higher this week.”

While the driver was pleased with the way the No. 2 Team Penske crew performed on Sunday, Keselowski still lacked the necessary speed to compete with race winner Kyle Busch — or Truex prior to his wreck at the end of the second stage.

“This execution is as good as you can get,” Keselowski added. “A little bit of luck helps and of course you want to be the fastest car. That’s not the scenario with rules the way they are now, so we’ve got to make the most of it and hope to catch a few breaks and make sure we do our part.”

Playing within the rules

On Monday, seven-time championship crew chief Chad Knaus warned Keselowski to be cautious when questioning one car make’s advantage over another, particularly since Toyota is playing within the boundaries established by NASCAR.

“All the manufacturers have had an opportunity to work within the confines that NASCAR has put out there from a downforce standpoint,” Knaus said on FOXSports 1. “Now, that being said, the Toyota teams have exploited this to the next level. I think they actually started to show up with that around May 2015 in Charlotte. We really started to see some performance out of the 19 car and some of those guys around that point in time.

“Fast forward — and they get a new body, some more tweaks to the car, and then they’re a lot better. I think, hands down, they have a better downforce/aero package than the other manufacturers do right now. So it has swayed in that direction. But it’s up to the teams and the manufacturers to be able to try and get that better.”

When Chevrolet was on top

Knaus knows what it’s like to have a target on his back. He’s been in the same position the Toyotas are in now where the other teams in the garage were gunning for the No 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet — the current defending champions. Before last year, Chevrolet had won 13-consecutive manufacturers' championships. Last year, Toyota collected its first manufacturers' title since entering the Cup Series in 2007.

“Go back six to eight years, and a lot of Chevrolets were winning a lot of races,” Knaus said. “I think it was more so because they had better teams than what the other manufacturers did.

“The teams had the strength then. Now I think the manufacturer has the strength and it’s a huge, huge advantage for those guys.”

Toyota hoped to secure five seeds in the playoffs. They settled for four — Truex, Busch, Kenseth and Hamlin. Three of those drivers have amassed 10 wins, and Truex and Busch have already advanced to the next round of the playoffs.

Keselowski leads the Ford charge and he, too, has already moved on to Round 2 based on points. The Blue Oval has five drivers with title hopes. However, Kurt Busch’s chances appear bleak after Sunday’s DNF.

As for the Chevy camp, once again the bow-tie boys qualified the most teams in the playoffs — seven. On most weekends, Kyle Larson has been the only Chevy to run within Toyota’s zip code.

But as Knaus proved last season, it’s not always the fastest car that wins the title. Experience and execution count for a lot.

shares
comments
Ross Chastain to get another shot in Cup this weekend
Previous article

Ross Chastain to get another shot in Cup this weekend

Next article

NASCAR issues penalties following Tuesday inspections in Concord

NASCAR issues penalties following Tuesday inspections in Concord
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021