Joe Gibbs Racing made it official today, announcing that they will field Toyota Camrys in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Grand National Series, beginning in 2008.
Team President J.D. Gibbs said the opportunity to be at the top of Toyota's pecking order played a major role in his decision to switch. "We’re going to have more of a leadership role, that’s probably the key thing," he said. "GM has four really strong teams, and it’s probably a little more difficult, figuring out who has the leadership role."
Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Jimmy Makar said, “It was a decision made by the people in our competition department, who live by one question whenever a decision is made regarding Joe Gibbs Racing: ‘Will this make us more competitive on the race track?’ The consensus answer was yes.”
The Gibbs team has been associated with General Motors since its debut in the 1992 Daytona 500; fielding Chevrolets from 1992 through 1996, switching to Pontiac in 1997, then back to Chevrolet in 2003. They have won three Nextel Cup titles -- Bobby Labonte in 2000, and Tony Stewart in 2002 and 2005 – and have Stewart and Denny Hamlin in position to challenge for a fourth this season.
JGR will join Michael Waltrip Racing, Bill Davis Racing and Team Red Bull under the Toyota banner, but team owner Joe Gibbs had only good things to say about GM, saying, “General Motors has been a great partner to Joe Gibbs Racing, and we’ve been able to celebrate many victories together. Moving forward, we know they will continue to be very successful. It’s our hope we can deliver their 38th Cup Series championship this season as a way to cap our 16-year relationship.”
Jim Aust, Vice President of Toyota Motorsports and President and CEO of Toyota Racing Development, USA said, “Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the most respected teams in NASCAR, a championship-caliber race team and a first-class organization. We are confident that partnering with (them) will raise the level of our entire program, and will be beneficial to all of our current teams.”
Toyota has struggled mightily this season, failing to qualify for a large number of races. While their fortunes have improved in recent weeks, Toyota still has fewer Top-10 finishes (10) than either Stewart (17) or Hamlin (14).