The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season may not have ended the way that Toyota or its talented pool of drivers had hoped it would, with Chevrolet driver Jimmie Johnson hoisting the championship trophy at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20, but the manufacturer can certainly hold its head high after another dominating season in NASCAR’s premiere series.
Toyota dominated over its two competing manufacturers, Chevrolet and Ford, in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning 16 of the season’s 36 races.
Additionally, Toyota drivers led an astounding 53-percent of the overall laps completed across all 36 races combined this season; that is 5,592 of the 10,523 laps, over 2,000 more than the next closest competitor, Chevrolet. The other manufacturer, Ford, only led a combined 1,389 laps this year.
So it’s easy to see that on a weekly basis Toyota cars were the ones to beat, and could consistently be found at the front of the field.
It all started in the season opener, the Daytona 500. The race ended in a photo finish, with two Toyota drivers Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. door-to-door crossing the finish line. It ended with Hamlin winning over Truex by just 0.010-seconds. Not too far behind Truex was Kyle Busch, who brought his No. 18 Toyota home for third and Carl Edwards took his No. 19 Toyota to a fifth place finish.
Talk about a dream Toyota marketing photo.
In all, Toyota led 158 of the 200 laps in the year’s biggest race.
The stats only proceed to get better and better. The 2015 Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch started the year with nine top-four place finishes in the first 11 races, three of which he brought home first place.
Edwards, would have eight top-seven finishes in the first nine races, including two wins.
Hamlin took home the first and arguably the most popular win of the season in Daytona.
Kenseth struggled at the start of the season, with two top-10’s in the first nine races, but he turned it around, and boasted two wins and seven top-10’s over the next 10 races.
Talk about a near perfect start for Joe Gibbs Racing and its Toyota power.
The man to beat and the top driver all season was Truex, as he had his No. 78 Toyota up front every single race. Unfortunately, many times bad luck would strike him late in a race and take him out of contention. That didn’t stop him from winning four times in 2016 and leading a series high of 1,809 laps.
Honestly, if not for that bad luck throughout the entire season, Truex would have easily won this year’s championship. The highlight of his season has to be leading 392 of the 400 laps in May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. That 600-mile race is NASCAR’s longest of the season and he led nearly all 600 miles.
Busch’s performance in the next biggest weekend of the year in Indianapolis rivaled Hamlin’s Daytona 500 victory and Truex’s dominance at Charlotte, though. In July, Busch not only won the pole for the Brickyard 400, but he also won the pole for the NASCAR X-Finity Series’ race the day prior. He would capitalize on that prime starting spot in both races and take both checkered flags for the second straight year in a row.
This year, Busch dominated like no one ever has at Indy, leading 149 of the 170 laps in the Brickyard 400 and 62 of the 63 laps in the X-Finity Series race, meaning he led all but 22 of the overall laps at Indy across two different series’ this past July.
Dominant at Daytona and even more dominant at Indy. The dream kept getting better and better for Toyota.
This type of dominance led two Toyota drivers to the final round at Homestead but neither Busch nor Edwards could beat Johnson for the championship in South Florida. They made him work for it, though.
Edwards passed Busch with 25 laps-to-go in that race, and it looked like Toyota would go 1-2 for the championship this year. Instead, a caution flew with 15 to go, and Edwards, trying for the win on a late race restart, crashed with 10 to go in the race. Johnson capitalized on that moment to take the win.
Even without the final win, Toyota can hold its head high. Toyota drivers Busch, Edwards, Kenseth and Hamlin finished the series third, fourth, fifth and sixth overall. Add Truex’s 11th place finish in the final standings and his overall dominance throughout the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and it’s easy to see that Toyota had an exceptional season and are positioned to have an even better 2017.
“In the end, they performed, with Busch, Hamlin and Truex Jr. [adding another dramatic year] to Toyota Racing’s growing legacy.”