NASCAR & Auto Racing

Qualifying at Charlotte brings Toyota teams 'back to reality,' TRD chief acknowledges

A strong showing at Talladega last weekend sent Toyota soaring into Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Then only six of its cars qualified for Saturday night’s race – and Brian Vickers, who finished fifth here in May – wasn’t one of them.

“We were body-slammed back to reality,” said Lee White, vice president of Toyota Racing Development.

Michael Waltrip was the highest qualifying Toyota at 19th, a far cry from a week ago, when Waltrip won the pole and Camry drivers took the first six spots.

Then Dave Blaney finished third in the race for Toyota’s highest finish of the season.

But White said TRD spent almost six months working on its restrictor-plate package, and knew its teams would be stronger at Talladega than they have been anywhere else this season.

The intense focus is partly in advance of Joe Gibbs Racing joining Toyota at the end of the season, White said. Because JGR can’t work on Camry’s until after the Nov. 18 season finale, TRD needed to a head start on the Daytona 500 preparations.

“I think Talladega was just the result of a lot of effort, a lot of hard work and a good example of what were hoping for in the future as our groups come together and work together and share their information,” White said.

“The main goal for this was to be able to hand something to the Gibbs guys in January for testing. Because of their focus on their Chase, their contractual obligations to GM, they can’t do this and we needed to be ready for them.”