Toyota is used to winning in NASCAR’s top level. In fact, they’re used to winning in bunches. That’s why Toyota Racing Development boss, David Wilson, didn’t hold back any punches when talking about the state of the manufacturer in a zoom call with the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Wilson said that it’s “unacceptable” that the Toyota cars haven’t won more than eight times in the NASCAR Cup Series season.
“We’re sitting on eight wins in 31 starts this year and that’s unacceptable,” said Wilson. “That’s ridiculous. We’re better than that. We should be sitting on somewhere between 13 or 15 right now.”
The president of Toyota said that the lack of success is on him and that they haven’t done as good as a job as the Ford group who’s scored 17 wins thus far. But, he also says that and pit road mistakes as well as the unfortunate nature of some late race cautions have prevented them for celebrating in victory lane more too.
“We’ve lost too many because of a loose wheel on the last pit stop heading into the third stage because of missteps or mistakes on our part,” Wilson continued. “This isn’t directed at any single team or driver. Those are the things that are unacceptable because we hold ourselves to the highest standard and it’s every part of the organization, every part of the performance of that car. That’s the part that is unacceptable.”
Wilson took aim at one race in particular – Martinsville in June.
“I’ll give you one example,” said Wilson on this race. “Simulation. That’s a piece Toyota TRD takes a leadership role on and our sim needs to be better. We’re working on that very aggressively.
“We have engineers who do nothing but work on tires. The first Martinsville race, we were not ready for that tire that NASCAR brought to that race. Shame on us. We called ourselves out on it. I’d like to say that will never happen again.”
Wilson is concerned because Toyota has won at least 10 races in five straight years and 10 of the last 12. If they are going to eclipse double digit victories again, they have to at least win two of the final six races to do so. Still, they haven’t had fewer than 13 wins since 2014 and in order to not dip less than that, they’ve have to win out or at the very least win five of the final six races.
Last year, they won all the big races too. They won the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500, the Bristol Night Race and the championship. This year, they’ve won eight times with one driver winning seven of them. The other drivers in the Toyota camp have one combined win. That’s not good enough he says.
“The reason I look at the next five races, going there with an expectation to perform, is because our cars are good,” Wilson said. “To put it into perspective, we could just suck and just not be capable of running up front. The fact is we do have cars capable of running up front and by and large we’ve demonstrated that week in and week out. Again, it comes back to all the other things that are required in order to seal the deal and take the checkered flag at the end. I know the spirit with which we go to the racetrack each and every week.”
Wilson, said that the goal from this point forward is to obviously win out and take a fourth championship in the last six years, but also a short term goal is to get three of the eight spots into the Round of 8. Denny Hamlin is automatically in while Martin Truex Jr. is looking good on his side. Kyle Busch is 21 points down in ninth and honestly has to likely win on Sunday to make this achievable.
“Our target was to get three cars into the final eight,” Wilson said. “It was four out of 16 and we only got three. We fell short with Erik. But then we expect to transfer all three to the final eight. We’ll be obviously crushed if Kyle doesn’t make it. Phoenix our target was to get two Toyotas to the championship round.”
They’ve had two cars in the Championship 4 for three years straight. Can they do it again?