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Joe Gibbs' teams: five wins in seven starts...where does Toyota fit in here? Lee White's Take:

  Kyle Busch (L) is still miffed with teammate Denny Hamlin...but Toyota boss Lee White (R) says Joe Gibbs' guys are on top of the game right now because of chemistry...not technology (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Since NASCAR dropped the rear wing on its Cup cars and switched back to the old flat-blade spoiler, Joe Gibbs' guys have been on top of the stock car world, with five wins in the seven races.
   And with Martin Truex Jr.'s strong performance in last Saturday's All-Star and Showdown races, maybe there's more to all this than just the Gibbs team finding the touch.
   Car owner Rick Hendrick, with four straight championships with Jimmie Johnson, and a bushel of tour wins, says Gibbs' men have lapped his guys in technology.
   Maybe Toyota is suddenly starting to take the measure of Chevrolet.
   Lee White, head of Toyota's NASCAR racing operations, says the turn of balance in the sport – coincidental with the changing of the rear spoiler – is just that, "coincidence."
   Rival Jeff Burton points to the flat-blade spoiler itself as the reason Gibbs' teams are now dominating.
   White says no: "Do we have some magic with the spoiler? No. That's baloney. Everyone has had the same amount of time to work with that."
   Still, there is something going on, White concedes: "With the new spoiler, there is more 'suck up' from the car behind, because there is more vacuum behind a car. You'll see that here, more drafting, similar to Daytona and Talladega. Here, at Michigan, at Atlanta, at Kansas, at Chicago....You'll see a lot more slingshots, like in the old days.
   "There is a little more total downforce...and it has helped move the center of pressure toward the nose (helping the cars turn in the corners)."
   And right now Gibbs' guys are making the most of it.


   Saturday's Showdown winner Martin Truex Jr. (R, here with team owner Michael Waltrip) finished a strong second in the All-Star itself, hinting that maybe there's more to this hot run by Toyota's Joe Gibbs than just Gibbs' teams (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)  


"We as a company are over-the-moon, with Joe Gibbs winning five of seven since the spoiler change...and it could easily have been six of seven, considering how Kyle Busch ran at Phoenix," White says.
   "For Martin to run as well as he did, we have great expectations for him here Sunday night too. And David Reutimann too, and Marcus Ambrose.
   "Those guys (Michael Waltrip's teams) have really raised their game. They're not quite yet there, at a level with the Gibbs guys, as far as closing the deal. But, I guarantee you, in getting to the last 20 laps, they've demonstrated they're really close.
   "And they have earned the respect of the Gibbs guys. And that has precipitated with us a lot of cooperative projects. And that's what advances a brand – when you get multiple organizations working together, pulling on the same end of the rope...at least to a certain extent.
  "Now they're not opening up all the setup books, and we're not passing setups around. But we have a lot of really advanced projects we're working on that both of those guys come in-house with us and work on.
   "Now, yes, we've won five of seven as a brand. And we love that. However just as easily that could be only two of seven, because there were Hendrick guys, Roush guys, Childress guys Penske guys, right there too the last 10 laps.
   "Kudos to NASCAR. The competition right now is, across the board, better than we've seen in a while. That's really exciting.
  "I'm having more fun going to the race track right now than I have had in decades...not because we are going to win but because we have a shot to win and so do so many others. That's what makes it fun for everyone."


  Looking for a Ford rebound too: Robbie Loomis (R) and AJ Allmendinger (Photo: Autostock)

But then doesn't that highlight the Ford issue...that Ford is still winless this season?
   "Don't discount my buddy Jack," says White, who worked for Roush for many years. "Those guys are closer than they look. Their stuff is really good; they've got a lot of power. Maybe they're a tick off, but not that far off."
   In fact White says he's pulling for Ford...because of NASCAR's manufacturers championship race, which Chevrolet has dominated.
   "At Dover the guy I was pulling for, other than Kyle Busch, was (Ford's) Matt Kenseth, because that would have meant we could have taken an even bigger  bite out of Chevrolet's lead. Just a few weeks ago we didn't think there was any way we could get back in that race; at one point we were 27 points behind...but now we're only 13 points behind, and that's getting to be a real race.
   "But to make that work, we've got to have Jack winning too. I'm pulling for Jack.
   "Remember 2008 – Kyle was leading the drivers' points and we were leading handily the manufacturers points...and then we got to Loudon, NH, and it all blew up, and Chevrolet took off and spanked everyone's butts. They have so many strong teams and drivers....we can't get the job done, in the manufacturers' championship, with just Joe Gibbs. We've got to have Michael in there too, and Jack and Roger.
   "I've worked for Jack, and we had multiple teams, winning races. If anybody can do it, it's Jack."

   Winning NASCAR races begins at the computer keyboard. Gentlemen, start your NASCAR simulation programs (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Ford's Jamie Allison, who heads the company's racing operations, says Ford is behind in computer simulation programs, which, without at-track testing, has hurt Ford for two years now.
   "Simulation programs are a lot of what we do," White says. "But you can have all the computer programs you want, if you don't have the drivers and people working together, it isn't going to work.
   "In my estimation, Jack is the guy who can get it figured out....with all due respect the key is getting everyone pulling on the same end of the rope."
   Gibbs' current run, White says, is more about chemistry than engineering.
   "Why have we won five of seven? The Gibbs' organization – aside from that contretemps between Denny and Kyle the other night – is in a really, good place," White says. "The three teams are working well together.
    "Joey Logano has come on strong and he is contributing to the overall effort..and that has Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) in a good mood mentally – happy. And Zippy is helping the other guys too.
   "Those guys all have a long runway with their sponsors and with us – sponsorships well into the future, secure.
   "And so do Michael Waltrip's guys. Very long runways.....and good young drivers.
  "There's not a lot of 'Whew, what are we going to do next year?'
   "And if you look around the garage, there aren't a lot of other teams that can say that. The only other guy who is in a similar situation is Roger Penske.
    "Everybody else has issues – even Rick Hendrick has sponsorship issues. And there are drivers issues.....who goes where....
   "And how do you stay under the radar with all those teams.
   "Jamie is a new guy with Ford, and how is that going?
   "And Richard Childress is still looking for a sponsor.
   "But the Gibbs guys are all in a good place where they can just focus."


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   Toyota execs amping up the NASCAR manufacturers championships battling.


Are these two really seeing eye to eye? Kyle Busch (L) says he's still miffed with teammate Denny Hamlin (R) for that All-Star run-in but that they need to get past it (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



Lee White's comments on

Lee White's comments on downforce and the draft with the new spoiler - more of a drafting effect for places like Charlotte, Pocono, Michigan, etc. - I dearly hope so, because these places are supposed to be drafting tracks as well as the superovals. This is where you got the most passing back in the day - the day of Donnie Allison telling Squier on The CBS Sports Spectacular, "the draft doesn't take effect here (Charlotte) like it does at Talladega or Daytona, but it helps, it definately helps here" - and even as late as the mid-1990s.

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