If anyone needs to know how drivers really feel about a situation, just go ask Brad Keselowski. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver doesn’t shy his opinion on controversial topics around the NASCAR garage. Last year in the June Pocono race, he called out Jeff Gordon as a broadcaster on FOX. He said he had a biased opinion since he was still a part of Hendrick Motorsports and had harsh judgement of him and Team Penske during the race.
Back at Michigan last month, he called out Toyota drivers for sandbagging that weekend. He said the only reason that Ford and Chevrolet drivers had any speed in practice on that Friday was due to the fact that Toyota drivers didn’t push the limits on the advantage that they had. When asked why they would do that, he said that he heard NASCAR takes cars from all three manufacturers back to the R&D Center and evaluates them. He thought Toyota was holding back that weekend since they didn’t want NASCAR to find their advantage.
NASCAR came out after the weekend and acknowledged the fact that they did indeed put that rumor out there, but they had no intention of taking the cars back to Charlotte. For the record, it worked too. That weekend, inspection went as quick, if not quicker than anywhere else. No one was really putting any extra monkey business in their cars.
I’d say that the rumor floated out there worked.
At Michigan, Toyota drivers led 95 of the 202 laps. While that is really good, that is far less than what they had before and after that Michigan race.
In the five races directly before Michigan, Toyota drivers led 875 of the 1,032 laps. That’s 85-percent. They led 59 laps out of the 90 laps completed on the Watkins Glen road course. Before that, at Pocono as well as Indy, they combined to lead 262 out of the 367 laps possible. Even before that, they led 290 of the 301 laps at New Hampshire and 264 of the 274 laps at Kentucky.
What about after Michigan?
Over the last three races, Toyota drivers have led 75-percent of the overall laps (955 out of 1,271). In fact, over the last nine races in general, Toyota drivers have led 77-percent of the laps (1,928 out of 2,505).
On Friday, Keselowski tweeted out that Toyota’s still have a large advantage and says NASCAR is the reason for that.
“We are all in for a rude awakening. Haven’t seen NASCAR let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the 70,” tweeted Keselowski when he responded to Jeff Gluck’s post about Toyota’s being 1-2-3-4 in the opening practice session at Chicagoland.
Well, while that’s surely going to rile up the Toyota drivers and their fan base, he does have a point.
Those comments he made at Michigan hold a ton of merit when you look at the stats of the races preceding it and after it. Toyota’s do have a clear advantage and no one else is really even in the same ball park.
From the season opener at Daytona to the 11th race of the season in Kansas, Ford drivers led 1,373 laps. But, in the 15 races since, they’ve only mustered just 434 laps led between all of their drivers. That’s far less.
What about Chevrolet?
They led 1,081 laps from Daytona to Dover. That was the midway mark of the regular season. But, in the 13 races since, they’ve combined to lead just 469 total laps.
While I don’t agree that NASCAR has to step in, Toyota’s have earned that advantage and everyone else needs to do their own work, NASCAR has typically in the past not allowed manufacturers to get a big advantage like this. They usually pull them back in.