Friday, October 5, 2007

A Happy Beginning for Toyota?

Note: This was originally posted February 12, 2007.

Since it's Daytona Speed Weeks time again, the subject of cheating invariably comes up. After yesterday's qualifying for the Daytona 500, it was announced that the 55 of Michael Waltrip, the 9 of Kasey Kahne, and the 17 of Matt Kenseth had problems passing inspection. This seems to be shades of last year, when Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson was suspended for a few races. Of course, as we all remember, Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 anyway, so this might not be such a bad thing for any of the teams involved here.

Today the news comes out that not only has Michael Waltrip's intake manifold been confiscated, but the whole blamed car! Seems an oily substance was found in his intake manifold, twice according to Mikey himself.

A few years ago on a camping trip, I found at a very inopportune time that I had misplaced all of my Sterno, which is used for fuel for the camp stove. Turns out Mikey had it all along! Imagine that! He could have had it if he'd just asked for it.

Mikey is a nice guy, and I certainly wish him no ill will. He was after all a 2 time Daytona 500 winner, so it's not entirely possible that this will be a major setback for him in the long run. Heck, like I say, just look at Jimmie Johnson last year! I won't be surprised if the 55 wins the Daytona 500 by 5 laps, with a back up car, a back up crew chief, and even a back up driver!

What I do wonder about, though, is how Toyota feels about this. Since it was announced that Toyota was joining the ranks of Nascar's top series, Micheal Waltrip has been the leading spokesman for the effort to get the Japanese car maker up to speed on America's top stock car racing series. Apparently no problems were found with the cars of the other Toyota teams, namely Red Bull and Bill Davis Racing. The fact that not just engine parts but the entire car have been impounded (with penalties yet to come) has to be making Toyota Racing officials scramble for the tall grass today.

Even if the 55 car is released back to Michael before the Duel Qualifiers on Thursday, Michael is still not guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500. He is not in the top 35 in points, and therefore must race his way in on Thursday, since he did not qualify fast enough on Sunday to be locked in. I'm guessing the Napa team is working overtime on the backup car as I write this.

But fear not, because the biggest story of last February was how the 48 team of Jimmie Johnson overcame all adversity and won Nascar's biggest race without it's crew chief, the venerable Chad Knaus. As they say, everybody cheats, it's just unfortunate for those who get caught. That's what they say, isn't it?

Since Michael Waltrip has become the biggest alleged cheater during this Speed Week, at least so far, it seems reasonable that Michael will do well in the actual race, if not win it. Toyota will be happy, cheating or otherwise, as long as they get a win.

Won't they?

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