TOYOTA AND SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MOTORSPORTS - Heading into this weekend's Toyota Indy 400, no corporate body has had a greater impact on the Southern California motorsports scene over the last 30 years than Toyota. Toyota has served as the...
TOYOTA AND SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MOTORSPORTS - Heading into this weekend's Toyota Indy 400, no corporate body has had a greater impact on the Southern California motorsports scene over the last 30 years than Toyota.
Toyota has served as the title or presenting sponsor of the track's open-wheel race at the California Speedway, as well as serving as the track's "Official Vehicle" for all events, since the track opened in 1997. In addition to the eight years of partnership with the Fontana oval, Toyota also has been involved with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for each of the event's 30 years - including 25 years as the title sponsor. Rounding out its sponsorship of Southern California racing events, Toyota will sponsor the second annual Toyota All-Star Showdown NASCAR event at the Irwindale Speedway, Nov 11-13.
Of course, the manufacturer's motorsports involvement in the area extends past sponsorship activities. Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A., is based in Orange County, Calif., and provides all the Toyota engines used for two series that will be on the track this weekend, the Indy Racing League and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The TRD engines are the only U.S.-designed and built engines in American open-wheel racing today.
POLE STREAK - Toyota will look for its third consecutive Indy Racing League pole this weekend at the Toyota Indy 400. Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Toyota) won the pole at Nazareth and Chicago. After powering his Toyota to the top spot here a year ago, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner will not only shoot for a third straight series pole, but also a second consecutive pole at Fontana. A pole this weekend would leave Castroneves just one shy of the IndyCar Series record of four set by Billy Boat. He has a total of three poles already this season.
LET'S PLAY TWO - While Ernie Banks may have coined the phrase, Toyota's motorsports program will be living it as the IRL and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series combine this weekend for the fourth of five double-headers this year. A Toyota Tundra driven by Travis Kvapil was victorious in the most recent double at Fontana's sister track in Michigan. This season's final double-header will be held on the last weekend of the IndyCar season at Texas (Oct. 16-17). The truck race will be the Saturday feature event this weekend.
CALIFORNIA WINNERS - Toyota has one California Speedway victory to its credit with Cristiano da Matta winning the 2001 CART race. The manufacturer placed second at the track last year when Scott Dixon (Target Toyota) was edged out by now Toyota-pilot Sam Hornish Jr., who has won each of the first two IndyCar Series races run in Fontana.
The fast two-mile oval also was the site of a couple of historic events by Toyota and its teams. Scott Pruett won Toyota's first-ever CART pole position at the track in Fall 1999, while Marlboro Team Penske set the all-time closed course speed record (241.428 mph) with Gil de Ferran in qualifying for the 2000 CART event.
THREE TOYOTAS IN TOP-10 IN POINTS RACE - Heading into this weekend, three Toyota-powered drivers continue to rank in the top 10 in points. Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Toyota) remains in fourth-place, while his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. is seventh. Darren Manning (Target Toyota) is currently 10th.
Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "Every race is important for us, but the Toyota Indy 400 obviously means a little bit more. Not only do we sponsor the event, but it's also our hometown race with both Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., and TRD headquartered here in Southern California. We've made some good progress recently and hopefully that will translate to the race track this weekend in Fontana."