TECH: Toyota Racing Development – From NASCAR to Your Car

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NASCAR is a huge sport, with legions of fans who turn out at the track to spend the weekend immersed in their favorite sport. It’s a carnival-like atmosphere with people in baseball caps and shirts and head-to-toe outfits in support of their favorite team. Its fans are just as enthusiastic as the guys who show up at football games with their faces painted the team colors.

The difference between NASCAR and sports like football is that it’s not about two teams of men and a ball. NASCAR is about lots of teams, each putting all their time and effort behind one driver and one car in the hope that their guy will pull out a win. You can’t do much to engineer a football, but you can do a lot to engineer a car, which is how Toyota Racing Development (TRD) fits into NASCAR.

This past weekend the Toyota/Save Mart 350 was held in Sonoma, Califonia. It’s a different kind of race with a track that has drivers turning left and right as they tackle a road course rather than an oval. Some drivers love it and others hate it, but for fans, it’s an opportunity to see a unique NASCAR race.


The Toyota Racing Development team was there in force and we had the opportunity to hear about how and why they’re so involved in NASCAR.

We met with TRD President, David Wilson, inside the RV that makes its way to every NASCAR race of the season. Instead of being filled with all the comforts of home, we stepped inside and found a bunch of engineers sitting at tables with their eyes glued to their laptops.

There were also television screens mounted above their heads so they could see what was happening on the track during that day’s qualifying runs. They were a serious lot, as you’d expect from a bunch of engineers.

Wilson sat in the back of the RV with his own laptop and set of monitors, but he pulled himself away long enough to talk about what TRD is doing in NASCAR. He discussed the limitations of NASCAR regulations that hold them back, but also the innovations that provide their drivers with an edge.

Those innovations include a recently unveiled race simulator that can precisely recreate a track so drivers can practice and learn a course. This is especially important on a complex course like the Sonoma Raceway. It’s also technology that can help develop the Toyota you drive.


You might look at the Toyota Camry in your driveway and wonder where the heck the similarities are between your Camry and the one Denny Hamlin drove at Sonoma last weekend. No matter how hard you look, you aren’t going to see how the two connect.

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At the Pit Pass experience, they have a display called the Morph car so you can see the drastic difference between the race car and the road car. It’s half NASCAR Camry and half production Camry melded into one. They may share the Toyota badge, but they are definitely not the same car. The connection isn’t in a specific part or a system but in shared knowledge.


Toyota Racing Development engineers work directly with the crew on Hamlin’s car. TRD doesn’t just show up, drop off a car, and disappear. An engineer is assigned to that car and is continually monitoring and optimizing that NASCAR Camry along with the crew. It’s a team effort where everyone is learning from the process.

That knowledge is what helps make your Camry better. The simulator the race car drivers use can also help Toyota engineers learn how your Camry will behave on the road when you’re taking your kids to school or driving to work. The things the TRD engineers learn working on the NASCAR Camry can cross over and help guide the engineers who work on your Camry. It’s the benefit of shared knowledge that improves all of Toyota’s products.

Adam Stevens, crew chief for the #18 Camry driven by Kyle Busch, reiterated the importance of Toyota Racing Development in getting both car and driver ready to race. The combination of technology like the racing simulator and the benefit of a TRD engineer assigned to work with the crew on finessing the car are essential to putting on a good show.

And that’s the second part of why Toyota Racing Development is involved in NASCAR. It is very much about putting on a good show and raising brand awareness.

If no one comes out to the race, then there is no NASCAR, so making the whole event something fans will enjoy is important. It might be a huge team of people with engineers galore that put it all together, but it’s the driver that fans are rooting for and coming to see. That’s why Toyota caters to fans who take the time to show up at the track, especially Toyota customers.

Through experiences like the Pit Pass, fans get a close-up look at the brand’s offerings. There’s even a store with TRD merchandise, some of which Toyota customers get a discount on if they show their Toyota key.

You might not be able to buy a TRD Camry (yet?), but you can buy vehicles like the Tacoma and 4Runner with TRD Pro packages that are more than just looks. They have genuine performance upgrades to suspension, air intakes, and exhaust components, not just snazzy floor mats and exterior badging.

NASCAR provides Toyota Racing Development the unique opportunity to engage Toyota customers, create new ones, and provide fans with an experience they won’t forget.

Photos courtesy of Toyota.

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