September 11, 2007
Written by C.N.
For those who follow American motorsports, you probably know by now that these days, the most successful American racing series, by far, is NASCAR, which claims millions of hardcore fans, billion-dollar merchandising sales, and a huge network television contract. You probably also know that amid much controversy, earlier this year Toyota joined General Motors, Ford, and Daimler-Chrysler as a competitor in NASCAR’s premier racing series, the Nextel Cup.
As I wrote previously, traditionalist (I might even say racist) NASCAR fans blasted Toyota for not being an American company (even though it employs hundreds of thousands of American workers in dozens of its factories located in the U.S.) and that it would use its “vast economic resources” to “buy” its way to success at the top. Sounds like quite a vast, diabolical, evil conspiracy that can only be concocted by devious hordes from Asia bent on taking over the world, right?
As it turns out, so far Toyota’s first season in NASCAR has been pretty much a disaster. There was a cheating scandal with one of its teams at the famous Daytona 500 race and since then, Toyota’s teams have consistently gotten their butts kicked on the track, presuming that they’ve been able to qualify for each race, which has not always been the case.
However, it looks like Toyota may finally be catching a break. As Sports Illustrated reports, one of NASCAR’s top teams is switching from General Motors to Toyota:
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will switch to Toyotas in 2008, ending a 16-year relationship with General Motors that produced three NASCAR championships. . . . This will make Gibbs’ three-car operation the premier Toyota team. With GM, Gibbs had to fight with [other elite teams] for top billing. . . The competition won’t be nearly as tough at Toyota, which has struggled mightily in its first season of Nextel Cup racing.
The automaker entered NASCAR’s top series amid much fanfare, but was embarrassed by Michael Waltrip’s cheating scandal at the season-opening Daytona 500 and horrendous on-track performances. Heading into this weekend’s race . . . the seven Toyota drivers have totaled just seven top-10 finishes. JGR’s three drivers have combined for 32.
Toyota’s teams have also struggled to make races — its drivers have failed to make the field 70 times in 178 attempts, and not one Camry is ranked in the top 35 in owner’s points.
I can hear the “traditionalists” howling right now. They’ll probably accuse JGR of “selling out” to foreigners and “betraying” their country. Funny, isn’t that the same racist criticisms that were leveled at Americans and American companies who did business with the Japanese back in the heyday of the “Japan bashing” days of the 1980s?
My point is, as the cliche goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. “Traditionalist” Americans always seem to be criticizing Asian countries, Asian companies, or Asians/Asian Americans for something or another, usually related to some perception that the “foreigners” are invading “their country” or in this case, their sport. It’s almost like clockwork really.
In the end, these “traditionalists” are likely to be left in the dust as the world and American society continues to move forward into the 21st globalized century. Here’s hoping that Toyota leads the way.
Update: On March 9, 2008, Toyota won its first NASCAR Sprint Cup race, with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch winning the Kobalt Tools 500 in Atlanta, with teammate Tony Stewart finishing second.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Toyota Lands an A-List Team in Nascar" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/09/toyota-lands-an-a-list-team-in-nascar/> ().
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