Tony Stewart claimed other manufactures were “ruining driver’s careers”
Last week, Tony Stewart was highly critical of Toyota’s driver development program. He didn’t mention the manufacture by name but it was implied.
Stewart said, “I think Ford’s done an awesome job with their driver development program. There’s not a lot of drivers in it but there’s a reason there’s not a lot of drivers in it because they put that focus on that small group of race car drivers.”
He added, “Versus one of the other OEM’s out there, that is in my opinion, ruining other driver’s careers on a daily basis. By just signing mass numbers of drivers. Then at the end of it, they don’t have anywhere to go with them.”
This week, a new Toyota team has been announced. 23XI Racing, a NASCAR Cup Series team fielded by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan will run in Toyota sponsored equipment from Joe Gibbs Racing.
David Wilson was asked about the earlier comments from Tony Stewart. He defended the Toyota program…
Toyota defends their driver development program
“Here’s what I’ll say, and I’ll keep it brief because I could go on forever on this topic,” stated David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development.
“Number one we’re delighted that Ford has made the decision to invest in driver development. I am certainly not going to judge their model or critique it. I’m just glad that they’re there because that’s a win for the industry and a win for these young kids that we’re both motivated to help.
“I am quite comfortable we are committed to the program, the investment that we’ve made. We have never held back a driver that has been in our program that has wanted to do something else or drive someone else’s car. Never. And we’ve given drivers the opportunities that they would not have had.
“Christopher Bell would not be sitting in the 20 car next year, one of the best teams in the entire sport were it not for Toyota. Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, they are sitting on national championships in NASCAR largely as a function of the relationship that we have and the help that we have provided these young kids.”
“So, as I said earlier, certainly one of the motivations for us to expand our footprint in the garage and partner with Denny [Hamlin] and Michael [Jordan] is over time to add some seats for some of these young kids.”
Everyone can’t makes it to the Cup level
Wilson added, “Someone asked earlier a question, I’ll speak very plainly, we don’t have anybody right now that is ready to go in a Cup car in terms of our young kids.”
“The other thing I’ll just remind everybody is most of these young kids who look like rock stars at 13 are never going to sit in a NASCAR Cup car. Never. The ladder narrows the higher you climb it. It becomes much more competitive as Denny referenced earlier. The jump between Xfinity and Cup, it is immense. It is immense. Most kids aren’t going to make it.
“Having said that, what I’m most proud of is that every one of these young people that we have a relationship with and we have a relationship with their families. We treat them with respect.”
“They are not a commodity. They are not indentured servants. That’s just our culture. We’re excited to have some extra seats down the road when we have some folks that earn their way into an opportunity.”
Toyota, by a significant margin, has the smallest number of seats of all the manufactures in the NASCAR Cup Series.