Last season JGR brought Toyota to the forefront and almost won them the Manufacture Championship. So how do the Toyota teams do this year? Here are my thoughts.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Can Kyle Bush repeat last years regular season domination? Will Denny keep his cool and stay in the chase? What happens to JGR with Tony no longer in the fold? Is Joey Lagono the Real deal or a dud? These are the questions a lot of folks have. JGR should have another good year. Both Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin should make the chase without a problem. Joey on the other hand is a wild card. Will he listen to a proven crew chief in Greg Zipadelli or will he figure, as a lot of 18, 19 and 20 year old do, that he already knows everything and starts tearing up equipment? I guess time will tell
Outlook for Joe Gibbs Racing
You can lock in Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin into your chase picture. These two team are solid and should have another solid year. The question remains the 20 car. They are a wild card to make the chase, but I think Zippy and the gang should be happy with a solid top 20 run this season and think about the chase at a later time. The biggest question for Joey is will we see the Joey we saw in the Nationwide series or the one that struggled in the cup series?
Red Bull Racing
Brian Vickers had a great showing for Toyota and for their second year team. Brian was consistently in the top 20 all year and brought some legitimacy to this race team. Brian should challenge for a chase spot but I'm not sure he'll make it. Red Bull also made a driver change this year bringing in Phoenom Scott Speed and releasing AJ Allmendinger. This upset a lot of people but we will have to see who was right at the end of the season.
Outlook for Red Bull Racing
I see Brian Vickers as having a chance to sneak into the top 12 and make the chase, The bigger question is can he win a race for Toyota and Red Bull this season. As for Scott Speed he needs to worry about staying in the top 30 this year, make every race and learn the tracks and drivers. If he starts pressing to run with the "big dogs" he could find himself in the go or go homers after 5 races.
Michael Waltrip Racing
David Reutimann played the Brian Vickers role at MWR last season. David was consistent and showed signs at the end of last season that he was going to be a force to reckon with in 2009. David is also one of the many who could find himself making a run for the chase. As for Michael Waltrip, well Michael put a lot of pressure on himself this year by stating if he doesn't make some major improvement he will probably step down and turn the car over to a younger driver. I personnelly don't think that will happen, Michael finally figured out how he like the COT to feel and once he and Bobby Kennedy figured that out Michael ran well. And even though he has a new crew chief in Bootie Barker, Bobby Kennedy will be their to help Bootie learn what Michael wants in a car. Last the 47 car of Marcos Ambrose. Marcos is a young driver and should hopefully put the car in the top 25. He will contend for a victory on both road courses and could surprise some on the cookie cutter track.
Outlook for Michael Waltrip Racing
I think the outlook is positive for MWR this season. Look for Both David and Michael to have cars in Victory lane and both viaing for the chase. I see a top 20 for both the 00 and the 55 and look for the 47 to have a good top 25 season.
Robby Gordon Racing
Robby moves from Dodge to Toyota in 2009. Robby wants to get back to the top 20 and win another race or too. I admire him for being on his own for so long but I think its starting to take its toll.
Outlook for Robby Gordon Racing
Robby should finish somewhere between 22nd and 30th in points. As always he will be a force on the Road Courses.
Rest of the Toyota Teams and Their Outlook
I'm just going to list the rest of the Toyota teams as they are all new teams. Don't expect any of these teams to contend for a chase spot. Most will be battling for the 35th spot to stay out of the go or go homers.
27 Kirk Shelmirdine - Kirk has done well in the past qualifying on the plate tracks but don't expect him to last the season.
34 Tommy Baldwin Racing - Tommy has Scott Riggs as a driver and has a solid chance of making the top 35. A new team with a craft veteran crew chief as owner. This team could surprise and end up in the top 30 by seasons end.
41 Jeremy Mayfield - Jeremy is starting his own team and has solid sponsorship with "Big Red" Soft drinks. Jeremy is a good driver and could end up in the top 35 by seasons end.
64 Todd Bodine - "Cue Ball" is moving up from the trucks to tackle the Cup series once again. If he has the proper backing and lands sponsorship he could contend for a top 25 spot.
66 Prism Motor Sports - With Terry Labonte and Dave Blaney driving for this team I hope they do well. I like both drivers but with Phil Parsons just starting out this team will struggle making the top 35. I hope they end the season in the top 35.
87 Joe Nemechek - After being ousted from Furniture Row, Joe is going to try it on his own. I don't see him making it through an entire season, unless he can find some major sponsorship.
Well there you have it the Toyota teams. Toyota should have 2 in the chase and there are several possiblities for more. The outlook for Toyota is looking better each year as more teams are moving in their direction.