Dave Blaney has won the first-ever pole position for Toyota in NASCAR’s Nextel Cup competition. His lap at 129.437 miles per hour at the New Hampshire International Speedway topped all other competitors and represented one of the few bright spots for Toyota in its first season as a Nextel Cup competitor. Blaney drives for Bill Davis Racing, one of the first Nextel Cup teams approached by Toyota in anticipation of a full-scale Cup effort.
However, Toyota driver and past champion Dale Jarrett, now out of past champion provisionals, failed to qualify for the race, as did Michael Waltrip and A. J. Almendinger, continuing a pattern of failures to qualify that has dogged the Toyota teams all season. The failure of Toyota, as a brand to qualify in Nextel Cup competition must be particularly galling to the sponsors of the teams, which include two of the largest in NASCAR: United Parcel Service (Jarrett) and NAPA (Waltrip).
Toyota’s bad news even continued after qualifying at New Hampshire was over. Brian Vickers was disqualified after his car failed inspection after qualifying. The car was below minimum height requirements on the driver’s side. Altogether, only three of the seven Toyotas committed to the Nextel Cup season managed to qualify at New Hampshire.
Rumors about that Joe Gibbs Racing is about to sign a deal to run Toyotas next year, replacing the Chevrolet’s that the team has won since Tony Stewart last won a Cup championship driving a Pontiac.
As Chevrolets have dominated the NASCAR Nextel Cup winner’s circles this year, it is understandable that Toyota would wish to sign up a top-tier Cup team. Why such a team would be interested is, however, the much more perplexing question.