Toyota secured its first ever victory in ‘The Great American Race’ on Sunday and swept the podium as Camry drivers scored a resounding one-two-three finish in the first and biggest race of the 2016 NASCAR season.
This milestone victory was also the closest finish in Daytona 500 history, with first-placed Denny Hamlin in the #11 car besting his Toyota teammate Martin Truex Jr. by the slimmest of margins – 0.010 seconds, equivalent to around 30cm.
Four of the top five positions were held by Camry models, with Toyota drivers combining to lead the race for 158 of the 200 laps – not including laps under the guidance of the official pace car, which, incidentally, is another Toyota Camry.
These were among the moments that provided Toyota with fitting rewards for 10 seasons in NASCAR, where Camry drivers have won 80 events since joining the top-level Sprint Cup Series (NSCS).
“This is the best,” said Hamlin after the race. “It’s the biggest race of my life. The Daytona 500 is the pinnacle of our sport and I’m just proud to be here. [However] this is a team victory. My teammates did an amazing job… sticking together all race long.”
“This is the greatest race in America,” echoed David Wilson, president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development, USA. “For our company to have won it makes it that special.
“I still remember how the moniker The Great American Race resonated as we looked at why [Toyota] should come into NASCAR. To have a shot at winning a race like that and to be able to talk to the incredible, powerful fan base that NASCAR has… How do you quantify the value? It’s truly stunning and special.”
The 2016 NASCAR season continues on 28 February at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Toyota won its first NSCS victory in 2008.