Johanna Long and Danica Patrick polarize fans in the Nationwide Series. Hear what they have to say about each other.
Johanna Long , Jamie Dick, and Sam Hornish Jr. wreck early at the Dollar General 200 at Phoenix.
Ricky Carmichael spins out of Turn 4 and collects Johanna Long .
Travis Pastrana and Landon Cassill get turned by Johanna Long
Six-time champion knows there are no guarantees in postseason RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota LOUDON, N.H. -- Jimmie Johnson knows the capabilities of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. And he knows its current status. The two are not the same. Often the yardstick by which others measure their own progress, Johnson and his team are currently showing more signs of vulnerability than dominance as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup moves into week No. 2 of 10 here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . No one's writing the team off, but neither is anyone conceding wins to the six-time Sprint Cup champion. "Truthfully, we're not the dominant car right now," Johnson said Friday at NHMS. "We're a good car. We still have nine weeks to get our act together; especially the way the Chase lays out, if we continue to get the most our of our good car and have a dominant car at Homestead, if we're in that position, then we can get seven (championships). "If" isn't typical for the team, which has normally been in more of a "when" mode by now. With the opening race out of the way (Johnson finished a pedestrian, for him, 12th at Chicagoland Speedway ), he enters this weekend's race eighth in points. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus haven't lost their way, but it's clear that others have improved. "This is a tough industry," said Johnson, who turned 39 earlier this week. “And we're working as hard as we can and I'm happy to see my teammates with speed. "And then there are a couple of guys out there that aren't in our camp that we're chasing and just trying to out-race them. But they're amazing race teams and drivers as well." Among them -- 2012 champion Brad Keselowski , winner of the last two Sprint Cup races. His Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano , has been no slouch, finishing fourth and sixth. Keselowski won here in July, and Johnson expects the No. 2 team to be no less of a threat this time around. Keselowski went on to finish first in the opening practice, while Johnson finished 29th. "I would expect him to be in a similar position for two reasons," said Johnson. "One, he had so much more pace than the rest of the field here in the spring race that it's hard to believe that everybody could cover that gap and get back to him. And then when we went to Richmond, which wasn't too long ago … and they had that form there, too. So I'd definitely say those guys are tough to handle." By themselves, Johnson's 24 Chase victories alone would rank in the top 10 among active drivers' total wins. And there are tracks ahead where Johnson will be expected to excel. Next week's stop at Dover ? He's won nine times there. Martinsville? Eight victories. Charlotte ? Seven career wins, including this year's Coca-Cola 600 . But he's taking nothing for granted. "It's awesome to have tracks that you love and tracks that you've had success at in the Chase," he said. "I feel like seven or eight of them have been historically awesome tracks for us. That part is great. "Stats are nice to look at, but you've got to live in the present. So just because we've been good at those tracks before doesn't guarantee us anything going back." A winner of three races in a four-race span earlier this season, Johnson hopes the team can rediscover the magic. "We've had one hot spot in the middle of the year … and we've kind of been lukewarm on the other sides," he said. "I'm hoping we heat up. I'm hoping we get to that hot spot again." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
RPM driver shows gratitude to Ambrose for contributions to organization RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota LOUDON, N.H. -- Aric Almirola has plenty of pressure to perform the next two weekends to keep his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason hopes alive. One thing he's scratched off the list of things to worry about -- the livelihood of his Richard Petty Motorsports team. Despite his last-place position in the 16-driver playoff, Almirola was almost all smiles Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , two days after his team reaffirmed its commitment to remain a two-car operation in 2015. It's the sort of long -term vote of confidence in the wake of teammate Marcos Ambrose 's impending departure that can at least soothe some of the opening-round heartbreak that visited The King's famed No. 43 last weekend at Chicagoland. "It's really important," Almirola said. "You see most or all of the top teams in this sport are multi-car teams and that's important to have that resource of teammates and more information. I think any time you do things with just one person it becomes really easy to get stuck in your ways and not be able to see outside the box, but as soon as you get more information, more teammates, more heads thinking on the same thing, it opens your eyes to a lot of different opportunities as far as setups and people and ways to go about setting your cars up and processes in the shop. "So I think anytime something like this is going down, it's important for the guys and first and foremost for the guys at the race team to know that, 'Hey, you're OK, you're safe. We’re not shutting the car down. We're gonna have two cars and we're gonna go racing.' So that's first and foremost of the importance to let those guys know that they're OK, but on top of that for everything that we've built over the last four or five years to this point and being a winning race team and a Chase-contending race team, to let everybody know that's still our goal and we’re not backing down from that." Carrying over the status quo isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen to a team that's seen its share of ownership changes over the years. Mergers and partnerships with principals such as Ray Evernham, Robert Yates and George Gillett made the team a cauldron of uncertainty throughout the previous decade as it shrank from a four-car conglomerate to a two-car stable, but the past three years have marked a period of relative stability in both the ownership and driver lineup. The smooth seas at RPM took on more than a ripple last weekend with Ambrose's announcement that he'd return to his native Australia, leaving Petty's No. 9 Ford with a prominent vacancy for 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. While Almirola, who signed a three-year contract extension with RPM back in January, awaits the team's next chapter, he expressed his gratitude for Ambrose's legacy and lasting contributions. "He was there a year before me, so he was there at probably its darkest hour with the Gillett split and bankruptcy and Richard putting a lot of his own money to keep the team alive, and going from four cars down to two," Almirola said. "Marcos has seen a lot of that company and helped build it to where it is today, and I'm extremely appreciative of that because I get to reap the benefits of that. I feel like I was a big part of that, but I came in a year later. He's probably been one of the best teammates that I've ever worked with. He's such a fun guy and a lot of fun to be around, and he's an extremely good race car driver." For the shorter term, Almirola and Co. need to regroup -- and fast -- to make their imprint in the Contender Round, the next three-race cut in the new-look Chase. Reaching that goal means turning it on in this Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) and following up strong the next weekend's race at Dover International Speedway. While Almirola said he didn't think he'd need a win-or-else approach over the next two races to advance, he also knows a repeat of the 41st-place finish outside the Windy City last weekend would be devastating. The Chicago setback hasn't stopped the 30-year-old from crunching the numbers to see how he'll avoid being one of the four eliminated drivers after Dover . "All the guys on my team and myself included know that we've got to go out and for our best shot -- without winning, for our best shot to transfer we have to run top-five the next two weeks," Almirola said. "There's no doubt about it and we've got to hope that the guys that are already down in points run 20th-25th. I think right now we're 23 points out of 12th, so if we run fifth and Carl (Edwards) runs 20th, that's 15 points and that puts us within seven going to Dover . That makes it a reality getting to Dover , but we've got to take a big chunk out here." While it's small consolation now, Almirola said that engine builder Doug Yates pinpointed the broken exhaust valve that caused his No. 43 car to go up in smoke just 37 laps from the finish last weekend, saying that similar trouble befell fellow Ford drivers Joey Logano at Kentucky and Ambrose at Atlanta earlier in the year. Almirola was heartened by the fact that it was just his first engine-related failure to finish in his three years with the Petty group, but that the timing of the misfortune could not have been worse. "Of all weekends for it to happen the first race of the Chase," Almirola said, "Why could it have not happened at Atlanta or Richmond or wherever else, but it is what it is. It just wasn't meant to be. The stars didn't line up right for us at Chicago, but we’ll rebound." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Chase standings leader wins pole at New Hampshire RELATED: Qualifying results LOUDON, N.H. -- You couldn't script a better beginning to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for Brad Keselowski , who showed no sign of stopping his relentless run toward a second championship on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Fresh from a dramatic victory in last Sunday's first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway , Keselowski blew away the track record in winning the pole for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at the Magic Mile (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski's fifth of the season, the eight of his career and his third in 11 starts at the 1.058-mile flat track. In the second and final round of knockout qualifying, Keselowski covered the distance in 27.090 seconds (140.598 mph) to edge Jamie McMurray (140.437 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. Kevin Harvick qualified third for the second Chase race at 140.065 mph. "The kind of track is kind of right in my wheelhouse, right in our team’s wheelhouse," said Keselowski, who won the July race at New Hampshire in dominating fashion. "We had this race circled before the Chase started, and we felt decent about Chicago, but we really felt like this was a race of emphasis for us to get a win and get out of the first bracket (three-race elimination round). "It's good, right? We just want to keep it going." Despite the excellent performances of the first two weeks, Keselowski isn't ready to claim ownership of the title just yet. "With the resets (after each round), the success of today really means nothing come Homestead (where the four remaining eligible drivers will race for the title, with the highest finisher among the four claiming the prize)," Keselowski said. "It's great. It's positive momentum. It's everything you want to do, and it’s everything you think you should do. "But when it resets, it resets, and nothing that you've done in the past really matters, as long as you're eligible for the bracket. I'm a long , long way from using the word favorite or feeling overly confident." McMurray, who did not make the Chase field, was pleased with his effort in qualifying. "I felt like, in my first run, I didn't get everything out of the car and maybe left a little bit on the table," McMurray said. "The first run I didn't think I got it all, but the second run out (in the final round), the second lap was really good. "Honestly, I came off Turn 4 and tried to run three laps and tried to just drive a little bit harder, but the tires just wouldn’t hold up for another quick lap." Chase drivers who will start in the top 12 on Sunday include Denny Hamlin (fourth), Kyle Busch (fifth), Jimmie Johnson (sixth), Joey Logano (seventh), Carl Edwards (eighth), Ryan Newman (ninth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (11th) Keselowski led the first of the two qualifying sessions with a lap at 139.614 mph (27.281 seconds), a scant .005 seconds faster than the No. 99 of fellow Ford driver Edwards. All told, 26 drivers in the 30-minute first round broke the track qualifying record of 138.130 mph (27.574 seconds) set by Kyle Busch on July 11, 2014. Earnhardt Jr. was the 12th and last driver to advance to the second session with a lap at 138.987 mph (27.404 mph). Chase drivers Jeff Gordon (13th), Kurt Busch (15th), Matt Kenseth (16th), Kasey Kahne (17th), Aric Almirola (21st), Greg Biffle (26th) and AJ Allmendinger (27th) failed to advance to the 10-minute final round. Notes: The track qualifying record was the 19th set this year in Sprint Cup Series time trials, in the first year of the knockout format. ... Keselowski has accounted for four of those records. ... The last two times Keselowski has won a pole for a Sprint Cup race (at Kentucky and Richmond), he has also won the race. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Late pass sends driver to second win of 2014 RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings SPARTA, Ky. -- Brendan Gaughan capitalized on the opportunity to utilize the high line on the final restart of Saturday night's VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway to win his second NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season. Gaughan, with a three-wide pass, powered around leaders Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon in the closing laps and cleared his competition in Turn 1, allowing him to cruise to an eight-tenths of a second lead over Richard Childress Racing teammate Brian Scott . "I love my restarts," Gaughan said in Victory Lane. "It was an awesome restart. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) kept telling me that lap times were great when everyone did two and we did four (tires), so it took us a while to get back (toward the lead) there, but four Goodyear tires in the end were the difference." On the final restart of the night, Dillon and Elliott battled but forgot about the guy behind them. Gaughan, with a head of steam, used momentum to clear his competition with six laps to go and cruised to his second career series win, and first on an oval. He also won June's road-course race at Road America . Richard Childress Racing swept the top-three finishing positions with Scott second and Dillon finishing third after a dominating performance. Gaughan, 39, credited his Earnhardt Childress Racing engine and transmission for assisting him in his triumph over the much younger Elliott (18) and Dillon (22). "There are great race teams and great young race car drivers, but the old dog still has something left," said Gaughan. Scott was on the verge of netting his first career Nationwide victory, but settled for his best performance of the season after restarting sixth. "I thought it was the right call to take four tires at the end," Scott said. "I restarted sixth and got a good restart and got up to fourth and I thought we were going to win this race. But, unfortunately, we didn't get any long runs and our Shore Lodge Camaro was a little too tight." Dillon, who led 155 laps, said, "I'm sick for my guys. Our Bass Pros Chevy was top-notch. It's a good thing for confidence to lead all those laps, but this hurts for sure." Dillon's dominance would be challenged on Lap 171 when Cody Ware lost an engine. The fifth caution flag of the night proved to be a significant break for the leaders, as they avoided green flag pit stops. On pit road, Dillon exercised a two-tire stop with fuel with Chase Elliott , Michael McDowell and Elliott Sadler also on the same strategy. Racing resumed with Chase Elliott making a valiant effort to overtake the lead from Dillon. He was able to nip ahead of Dillon's No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, when Eric McClure crashed in Turn 4. With 19 laps to go, Elliott fended off a challenge from Dillon on the initial restart, but his opportunity to stretch his lead would be short-lived, after Regan Smith made contact with Sam Hornish Jr . on Lap 184, sending him hard into the Turn 1 wall. A flawless restart from Elliott allowed the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet to escape the hungry pack behind him. Again, Elliott's gap would be diminished by yet another caution for debris on Lap 190 -- which would prove the difference in the race. Leaving Kentucky, fourth place finisher Elliott holds a 20-point cushion over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith in the championship standings with six races remaining. Next up for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a trip to Dover International Speedway on Sept. 27. Joey Logano is the defending champion. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See the order the drivers will roll off in (Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET) RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today # Car Driver Team 1 22 Michael McDowell(i) Discount Tire Ford 2 54 Sam Hornish Jr. Monster Energy Toyota 3 40 Matt DiBenedetto Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 4 72 * John Jackson CrashClaimsR.us Chevrolet 5 11 Elliott Sadler OneMain Financial Toyota 6 43 Dakoda Armstrong # WinField Ford 7 60 Chris Buescher # Roush Performance Parts Ford 8 28 JJ Yeley Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge 9 42 Dylan Kwasniewski # Up & Up Chevrolet 10 52 Joey Gase Chevrolet 11 31 Chase Pistone(i) Chevrolet 12 44 Blake Koch Centershot Toyota 13 55 Jamie Dick Viva Auto Group Chevrolet 14 33 * Cale Conley (i) IAVA Chevrolet 15 01 Landon Cassill G&K Services Chevrolet 16 46 * Ryan Ellis Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 17 19 Mike Bliss TriStar Motorsports Toyota 18 17 * Tanner Berryhill # NationalCashLenders.com Dodge 19 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Bandit Chevrolet 20 13 * Carl Long OCR Gaz Bar Dodge 21 80 * Ross Chastain (i) ADVICS/CMW Toyota 22 93 Kevin Swindell JGL Racing Dodge 23 62 Brendan Gaughan South Point Chevrolet 24 14 Eric McClure Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap Toyota 25 87 Josh Reaume Lilly Trucking Ford 26 51 Jeremy Clements RepairableVehicles.com/AllSouthElectric.com Chevrolet 27 20 Justin Boston(i) Zloop Toyota 28 5 * Austin Theriault Maine Open for Business Chevrolet 29 74 * Mike Harmon WCIParts.com Dodge 30 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 31 99 James Buescher ToyotaCare Toyota 32 7 Regan Smith TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet 33 3 Ty Dillon # Bass Pros Shops Chevrolet 34 23 Carlos Contreras 38 Special/Voli Chevrolet 35 10 * Jeff Green SupportMilitary.org Toyota 36 16 Ryan Reed # ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Ford 37 39 Ryan Sieg # RSS Racing Chevrolet 38 9 Chase Elliott # NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 39 2 Brian Scott Shore Lodge Chevrolet 40 70 * Derrike Cope youtheory Chevrolet 41 89 * Morgan Shepherd Courtney Construction Chevrolet MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
First decade in NASCAR includes five driver titles, nearly 300 wins RELATED: Enter Chase Grid Live Sweepstakes " Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today The words came loud and fast over the public address system. "Who wants to see Chevy win today?" the announcer screamed, drawing plenty of cheers from the crowd assembled at Michigan International Speedway . "Who wants to see Ford win?" More cheers. The fans, it seemed, were split. And then came something new, as the crowd was asked how many were hoping for a Toyota victory at the 2-mile track. "You heard a lot of noise. Yeah, we were not the most popular manufacturer at Michigan," recalled Dave Wilson, president and general manager for Toyota Racing Development, USA. "But to win there was really special." The year was 2004, and it was the debut season for Toyota, the newest automaker in one of NASCAR's top three national series. Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford teams competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series suddenly found a newcomer in their midst. They soon found a newcomer in Victory Lane as well, as Travis Kvapil , competing for Bang Racing, won the Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 that July day at MIS. It was the first victory for Toyota in one of NASCAR's three national series. By season's end, the manufacturer had been to Victory Lane three more times. The following year, Toyota teams scored nine more victories, and in 2006, Todd Bodine claimed the series' championship with Germain Racing. Toyota also clinched its first manufacturer's title. But long before the championships, and likely even before Kvapil's win, the question was already being raised. "The icing on the cake, once we started racing in the Truck Series," Wilson said, "was when we started hearing from our own (TRD) team members and from the folks at the plant, from dealers -- and what they were saying was 'this is awesome; when are we going to go Cup racing? When are we going to go to the Show?' " It wasn't a "foregone conclusion" that Toyota would eventually begin supporting teams at the Sprint Cup level, he said. "We thought we would. We aspired to. We had to sell it into our management group that this was the right place for us." Ten years after its debut, it's a question that's no longer asked. Bang Racing's Travis Kvapil and members of Toyota Racing Development celebrate the manufacturer's first NASCAR national series at Michigan International Speedway in 2004 following a win with his Toyota Tundra in the Camping World Truck Series Courtesy of Toyota Racing • • • Two concerns hung over Toyota as it prepared to launch its NASCAR program. The first, coming from outside the company, was that the hugely successful group would simply come into the sport with an open wallet and purchase the best teams, drivers and crews. However, Toyota officials took just the opposite approach, in most cases reaching out to those who were interested in starting brand-new teams and building from the ground up. According to reports at the time, as many as 84 potential and existing teams either were courted by Toyota officials, or approached Toyota themselves as the automaker prepared to enter the Truck Series. Eventually, only four organizations were chosen -- Bang Racing, Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, Innovative Motorsports and Bill Davis Racing. That might have quelled some concerns, but it also meant the newest player would face tremendous growing pains. Two of the first four organizations, Bang Racing and Innovative Motorsports, would last only through that inaugural season. "They didn't want to buy their way into the sport; they wanted to have new owners," said Michael Waltrip , younger brother of Darrell and one of the first Sprint Cup team owners with Toyota backing. "They wanted to help grow the sport, and I think their presence here has grown the sport immensely. Not only new car owners like myself, but new fans, a different demographic of people who maybe drove Toyotas started watching NASCAR and maybe folks that were NASCAR fans decided that they thought it would be OK to drive a Toyota since Toyota was here." The second concern came from within -- building acceptance in what is still considered a uniquely American sport. Toyota officials knew there would be some backlash from some fans. "We did a lot of research," Wilson said. "We talked to a lot of fans before we ever turned a wheel in this sport. Our management was very sensitive to how we overcome this potential resistance that the fan base may have to a 'foreign' company. "We had a certain reputation, whether it was perception or real, that we would come into the sport and spend too much money, that we would ruin the sport." Coming in through the Truck Series, he said, gave the company a chance "to just start building those relationships. Not just within the NASCAR community but within the NASCAR fan community." Tom DeLoach, owner of Red Horse Racing, said the brand was "kind of semi-loved and kind of semi-unloved" when it arrived on the scene. DeLoach, who had been a co-owner of a Sprint Cup team before making the move into the Truck Series, had years of experience in working with global companies during his tenure with Mobil. "I worked internationally so I appreciate the international piece. When Mobil went into Formula One racing, we married up with Mercedes. So for me, an international manufacturer, I'm fine with it, because I see that we're in the international economy. So let's don't get all bent out of shape because of American vs. non-American. "You look at where the jobs are, where they build the cars, where you create the jobs. And if you go back and look at what Toyota's done, it was a lot of noise, but when you cut through the noise, it's 'Hey, the jobs are in the United States.' They build a lot of cars in the United States. That creates a lot of jobs in the United States. That always frustrated me when I saw that." In 2013, Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing) became the third Toyota driver to win the Truck Series title. It was his first title and the manufacturer also won its sixth championship. Crafton, whose teams fielded Chevrolet entries until making the switch in 2012, said he saw first-hand what the addition of Toyota brought to the series, and to NASCAR. "I was on the other side of the fence at that point," Crafton said. "One of the things ... I had seen was in the previous seasons before Toyota came in, the other manufacturers had pulled back so much. We didn't get hardly anything. They did help us a little, but not much. As soon as Toyota came in, (the other manufacturers) stepped it up. Because they didn't want to have the new kid on the block come in and beat them up. I saw that. It was huge. "Even when I wasn't driving for Toyota, I said it was great because it made everyone else step up their support." Jason Leffler drives his Braun Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry to victory in 2007 at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis for the manufacturer's first Nationwide win. Courtesy of Toyota Racing • • • The 2007 racing season was one of change for NASCAR. Not only was the Sprint Cup Series debuting a new car, labeled the Car of Tomorrow, for the first time, but Toyota was joining the ranks of Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams as well. The company's approach hadn't changed -- find new owners and build from the ground up. For Sprint Cup, that meant aligning with Michael Waltrip Racing and Red Bull Racing. A third team, Bill Davis Racing, was the lone group already in the sport, and made the switch from Dodge to Toyota. "They paid a price for that (approach)," said MWR driver Brian Vickers . "It took a while for teams like Red Bull and MWR to really get going. But ... I think they earned a lot of respect for doing that, and if they didn't, they should have. Anyone that didn't respect that just probably wasn't ... you weren't going to get them anyway. Their mind was already made up." While Toyota teams had 13 victories and won 17 poles in the Truck Series in '07, as well as a pair of wins and four poles in Nationwide, the Sprint Cup efforts produced only a pair of top-five finishes. But from a timing standpoint, the move into Nationwide and Cup was on target, according to Wilson. "This was us working in concert with NASCAR," he said. "We had a timeline. We came into Nationwide and Cup in the same year. I remember having the conversation with NASCAR; there may have been a consideration to push our entry back one year because ... the COT came on board (that year). "It would have been cleaner, and less expensive for us, to come in in 2008. But NASCAR wanted us there in '07. We wanted to be there in '07. But it really came together pretty much as we hoped it would." Then, in 2008, Toyota added another team to its roster -- Joe Gibbs Racing . Four races into the new season, JGR driver Kyle Busch scored the first Sprint Cup victory for Toyota, winning the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway . "That was special," Wilson said. "It was first Cup win, that's a given, but really behind that, what makes it special is that Joe Gibbs, his family, his organization, they took a leap of faith. This is an organization that had already won three national championships with Chevy, had been with Chevy for 14 years. Certainly through 2007, we hadn't established ourselves; we were learning, learning about what it was going to take to win. "To have that validation, to put those guys in the winner's circle, I think Kyle won eight races that year, there was a tremendous sense of validation with that." For Gibbs, the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota wasn't made in haste. The team owner is fiercely loyal to the organization's sponsors, and aligning with Toyota was a huge move. "I think what made it difficult was we had 15 years with GM," said Gibbs. "You go through so many things when you're in a racing program -- there are extreme highs, extreme lows, you win championships. So you develop all those relationships and partnerships, so it's hard when you've got to make a decision like that. "But we felt like after analyzing it, if you really look at the lineup inside GM, Rick Hendrick ( Hendrick Motorsports ) was in there and had won championships, Childress ( Richard Childress Racing ) had won many championships, and had been there longer than we had. We felt like moving to Toyota -- this is a very competitive world -- it gave us a better chance to distinguish ourselves and maybe be an elite team for a manufacturer that racing means a lot to. "Certainly I think this partnership for us has been great. It was the right decision; we all feel that, way, a hard one but the right one." Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch celebrates Toyota's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Courtesy of Getty Images • • • Today, Toyota supports seven organizations fielding 18 teams in one or more of NASCAR's top series -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series. In 10 years, those teams have combined for 281 victories, five driver championships and nine manufacturer titles. Although they've yet to walk away with the biggest prize, a Sprint Cup championship, Toyota drivers have finished second in the standings three times in the last four years. "This isn't something we try on for size," Wilson said. "NASCAR isn't going away. For us, where I knew that we did our job in getting that understanding is 2004, our first in the Truck Series, ... at the time our president Mr. (Yukitoshi) Funo coined the phrase that we will be in NASCAR for 100 years. "It's a figurative statement. ... It's an understanding of the sport and it's an understanding of the cultural relevance that the sport has in this country. It has nothing to do with whether we stay or go but as long as NASCAR is around, we're going to be around. That's very much the mentality." Oh you know just hanging out @toyotaracing pitpass waiting for @BubbaWallace #ItsBristolBaby pic.twitter.com/0w2RqFPME1 — Megan (@mnreed6) August 20, 2014 • First season of competition: 2007 • First pole: July 1, 2007, Dave Blaney, Bill Davis Racing, New Hampshire Motor Speedway • First win: March 9, 2008, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Atlanta Motor Speedway • Driver championships: 0 • Manufacturer championships: 0 • Wins in series: 65 (through Sept. 3, 2014) • First season of competition: 2007 • First pole: Feb. 24, 2007, Dave Blaney, Braun Racing, Auto Club Speedway • First win: July 28, 2007, Jason Leffler, Braun Racing, O'Reilly Raceway Park (Indianapolis) • Driver championships: 1 (Kyle Busch, 2009) • Manufacturer championships: 3 (2008, '09, '10) • Wins in series: 93 (through Sept. 3, 2014) • First season of competition: 2004 • First pole: March 13, 2004, David Reutimann, Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, Atlanta Motor Speedway • First win: July 31, 2004, Travis Kvapil, Bang Racing, Michigan International Speedway • Driver championships: 4 (Todd Bodine, 2006, '10; Johnny Benson, '08; Matt Crafton, '13) • Manufacturer championships: 6 ('06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '13) • Wins in series: 123 (through Sept. 3, 2014)