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And what about all those Toyota-NASCAR rumors swirling about? Lee White says.....

Toyota racing boss Lee White (L) talking with top team manager J. D. Gibbs (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern

   SONOMA, Calif.
   Now that General Motors has followed Ford and Dodge in withdrawing financial support from NASCAR's Truck and Nationwide series, what will Toyota do?
   That's been a hot button question for a week or so, particularly since GM's financial cuts are apparently immediate.
   Word in the Infineon Raceway garage over the week was that Toyota has decided to follow its three corporate rivals and pull all but engineering and technical support and parts supplies from the two NASCAR tours.
   Lee White, head of Toyota' racing development operations:
   "Toyota and TRD have been in the process for over a year, of adapting our series support for the Truck/Nationwide programs to be appropriate to the value of each series.
   "Our process in the future will not be determined by other manufacturer's actions but by the value delivered by each series.
   "At this point there is no plan to change our involvement for the remainder of this season.
   "As always we will re evaluate each series over the winter and could make appropriate adjustments."
   There has been talking among the four manufacturers about a joint engine program that, with tight specs, could be a 'crate' engine program providing more inexpensive motors to Truck and Nationwide teams. However it is unclear how interested NASCAR executives might be in such a program. A season's worth of competitive engines, under this program, could run as cheaply as $600,000 per team, according to engine men.
   And what about that speculation, which both Jay Frye (general manager of Team Red Bull) and Chevy team owner Rick Hendrick have been generally promoting, that the Red Bull-sponsored NASCAR operation might switch from Toyotas to Chevrolets for 2010? The current Red Bull contract with Toyota runs out at the end of the season.
   White's response: "We don't comment of Team agreements or rumors."
   And speculation, hot here, that Richard Petty and Kasey Kahne could switch to Toyotas as soon as July?
   White says "I've never talked to the King or his driver. I'm pretty sure that no one at Toyota/TRD has talked to either of them."
   Petty and Kahne won Sunday's Sonoma 350 in a Dodge. But Petty's four-team Dodge operation has been in some turmoil much of the season and Petty has just let nine employees go, for financial reasons, with Petty saying that Dodge is behind in its payments. Petty's business partner George Gillett last fall tried to wrangle a Toyota deal, which fell through.
   Fellow Dodge team owner Roger Penske, on the other hand, has been a staunch supporter of Dodge, and says he's comfortable with how Chrysler is handling its financials during the bankruptcy.


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