DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Toyota started it in 2016, Ford perfected it there after and Chevrolet brought it to a head in last year’s Daytona 500. What “it” is, is manufacturer alliances on superspeedway’s.
For the 2016 Daytona 500, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s knew that they didn’t have strength in numbers compared to their car count vs. the Ford’s/Chevy’s, so they teamed up only with each other. It panned out for a 1-2 finish in the Daytona 500 that year.
After that race, Ford took notice and had their powerplant line up together and draft with one another during the four combined annual stops at Daytona and Talladega. Ford, already had good motors for these tracks, but throw in teamwork and you get domination in the form of 13 of the last 19 races won when using the restrictor plates.
They were in everyone’s head. So, for last year’s Daytona 500, the Toyota’s knew that they didn’t have the numbers to contend for the win. Hendrick Motorsports, a Chevrolet team, knew that the other Chevy cars weren’t good enough to hang with them to challenge the Ford’s. So, we saw an unlikely tandem for the ‘500 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota’s and their alliance car at Leavine Family Racing and the Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevy’s.
Combined, that’s nine very good race cars that with even the smallest bit of help from any other Chevy team, could work together and break up the Ford party up front.
See, Ford’s knew that if they lined up in tow, go up to the high line and pull each other around the 2.5-mile track, it didn’t matter how many Chevy’s or Toyota’s lineup, no one could stop them.
So, HMS and the Toyota’s teamed up and ran up there with them, then would use the draft to take air off the Ford’s and break them apart.
Toyota finished 1-2-3 in the ‘500, Ford’s grew frustrated with one another and the Chevy teams were pissed that HMS sought out a late hour deal with a rival manufacturer.
In turn, Chevy had a closed door meeting afterwards and made sure that this didn’t happen again. Chevy teams could only work and draft with other Chevy teams. No more helping the competition.
Ford teams would still try and do the same. The Toyota’s? Well they were hung out to dry.
Chevy was the biggest beneficiary of this. HMS would finish 1-2 in the first race with the tapered spacer last April in Talladega including Chevy going 1-2-3 overall and taking five of the top six finishing positions.
In the July race at Daytona, Chevy went 1-2-3-4 this time.
But, in the second stop to Talladega last October, the Ford’s found a way to get back to prominence. They’d lead 125 of the 188 laps run and take a 1-2 finish and four of the top five. Chevy, took spots 6-8-10.
How will Sunday play out? Is manufacturer teamwork still as strong? Is it stronger?
The Toyota’s had just one car in the top 18 at Talladega in April and three in the top 10 in October. In the July Daytona race, they had just two cars in the top 21 overall too. They will need some help this weekend.
It showed in Thursday night’s Duels too. The Ford’s dominated the first 150-mile qualifying race with taking spots 1-2-3-4. Chevrolet’s teamed up in the second 150-mile qualifying race in taking spots 1-2-3.
Logano, said that they ganged up on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as he can’t beat the Ford’s 1 on 6. The Chevy’s did the same to Kevin Harvick in the second Duel going 5 on 2 vs. Fords. The Toyota’s, well when they’d make a move, they’d get shuffled out. Denny Hamlin tried in the first Duel but he fell back and will now start 21st Sunday as a result. Same thing happened to Kyle Busch in the second Duel. He faded and will start 28th on Sunday too.
The Toyota’s are fast as they put all three cars in the top 10 in single car Daytona 500 qualifying last Sunday. They had the speed and handling to hang up front on Thursday night, it’s just that in the end, when it comes to needing drafting partners, Toyota only has five cars in the race with two of the three not making the show being Toyota power. That’s huge. The Ford’s have 16 cars with Chevy 19.