Denny Hamlin discusses pipeline of Toyota development drivers

Toyota development drivers: Is there room for them at the end of the tunnel?

Toyota Racing Development extends well beyond the NASCAR level. Their organization selects standouts as far down the ladder as the late model level. Those drivers are currently in training.

“Toyota plays a bigger role on driver development. They start them 2-3 divisions lower than what JGR is looking at drivers,” Denny Hamlin explained during NASCAR media day. “They have a good eye for talent, they always have. I think they use the JGR platform in which to groom that talent.”

“There’s no better platform than these guys can get into. To get in a KBM truck or a JGR Xfinity car. It’s the best of the best. It’s on you to preform at that point.”

Denny Hamlin at Richmond Raceway (2016)
RICHMOND, VA – SEPTEMBER 10: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 10, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

But is there room on the top step for a Toyota driver?

JGR is packed full of drivers with a lot of years left in their careers. Christopher Bell is a standout in the Toyota pipeline. But, where does a Toyota development driver land?

“Well, I think there’s always a place [for a Toyota driver] as long as Furniture Row doesn’t have 4 cars.”

Furniture Row Racing fields fellow Toyota’s. The 2017 championship winning team is a satellite team to Joe Gibbs Racing. Rather remarkably, they took JGR equipment and out preformed them all.

NASCAR Sponsorship

“It’s also only about sponsorship though, right? I mean, that’s been the biggest factor in the hiring and the firing of drivers, in the last 10 years. You have to have it, to preform.”

“It’s just the way that the teams finances are. They have to run off the bottom line. They’re gunna put who they think is best for the job and financially, makes sense.”

“We have 4 cars at Joe Gibbs Racing. But, ultimately, Christopher Bell is part of the TRD family. There’s other Toyota teams out there.”

Ty Gibbs
Ty Gibbs
Ty Gibbs is coming

Ty Gibbs is the grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs. At 15 years old, he’s coming. Last year, at age 14, he won his first late model race at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

“I’ve watched him in person, twice now,” Hamlin says.

“Honestly, when you’re his age, it’s so raw. There’s so much refinement that has to be done between now and when he’s ready to step up to the next level.”

“But, he’s got the one thing that is hard to teach and that’s speed. You can teach control, after that.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes this whole thing.”


Denny Hamlin | NASCAR