It’s a polite idea, especially sports-wise, thinking each new season brings with it new hope. For those teams (or in NASCAR’s case, drivers) that missed the playoffs in 2017, it’s an opportunity to climb back into the postseason. And for everyone who made the postseason but fell short of winning the NASCAR championship – everyone not named Martin Truex Jr. – it’s a chance to tell yourself that this year things will turn out differently.
For as talented as drivers are, for as much intensity as their bodies undergo during the course of a race and especially an entire season, they’re only as good as their equipment.
In 2017, one manufacturer’s equipment was far superior to any other. Toyota won its second Cup Series manufacturer’s championship, largely behind the strength of the aforementioned Truex and title runner-up Kyle Busch.
And while those are the heavyweights, there are also plenty of other Toyota drivers capable of winning on a week-to-week basis: Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Daniel Suárez and more. Now, some of those names will change in 2018, but the cars won’t – and neither will Toyota’s string of dominance.
All season long, we heard the same thing from analysts and drivers and fans and just about anyone who tuned into any NASCAR race: Truex is just too fast, he just has too much speed. Yeah, that ain’t changing in 2018. Same goes for Busch, who just about had that speed to catch Truex in the championship race at Homestead.
The thing is, Toyota doesn’t need to have all four drivers at Homestead for 2018 to qualify as a dominant season. What it needs is at least one of Truex or Busch to make it back to Homestead, with at least one other driver also making a playoff run, a la Denny Hamlin in 2017. Considering how this season went, that’s far from impossible. Actually, there’s probably a pretty good chance it works out that way.
Now, what are the odds Toyota wins eight of the last 10 races like it did this season? Likely not as good. But as long as Truex and Busch are still signed on, Toyota has as good a chance as any manufacturer of winning another NASCAR championship next season.
And odds are if that’s the case, it’ll probably be taking home a third straight manufacturer’s title, too.