This is the third and final of a series of 2017 season NASCAR manufacturer previews. This week: Toyota.
Toyota’s two top teams accomplished just about everything in 2016 except winning the Cup championship. Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing won 16 of the season’s 36 races between them – helping Toyota win the Manufacturer Championship – but it wasn’t enough as Chevy’s Jimmie Johnson won the championship.
Joe Gibbs Racing
JGR’s four-driver team again stacks up as perhaps the strongest in the sport, top to bottom. Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards both advanced to last season’s final four in the Chase, Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 and Matt Kenseth (a former champion) also made the postseason. Each one of them won multiple races.
Busch followed his 2015 championship with a four-victory season in 2016 and finished in the top-five 17 times – nearly half the races in which he ran. But the competitor in Busch will only remember that he didn’t win a second consecutive championship.
Edwards was in pretty good position to perhaps win the title at Homestead before he inexplicably wrecked Joey Logano late in the race.
Any – or all – of JGR’s drivers should contend again.
Furniture Row Racing
Big changes are coming to Denver-based Furniture Row, the only Cup team located west of the Mississippi River. The team will add a second driver in Erik Jones, who has been successful in the Xfinity and Truck series in recent seasons. He will drive the team’s No. 77 Toyota, joining veteran Martin Truex Jr., who made the Chase for a second consecutive season in 2016.
Truex was a favorite to win the title, but didn’t make it out of the third round after he had engine issues at Talladega. He had won two of the first three races of the Chase – at Chicago and Dover.
BK Racing lost Matt DiBenedetto to Ford’s Go Fas Racing and David Ragan to Front Row Motorsports. So BKR picked up Joey Gase for 2017.