Matter Of Time

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It had to happen sooner or later. When Toyota entered the Craftsman Truck Series ranks two years ago, it was only a matter of time before the Japanese company made its way up the ladder to the big time in NASCAR racing, the NEXEL Cup Series.

Toyota made its announcement Monday during the annual Lowe's Motor Speedway Media Tour that it plans to field teams at NASCAR's highest level, beginning with the 2007 season.

That makes four manufacturers - General Motors, Ford, Dodge and Toyota - now in the NEXTEL Cup Series. As Robert Duvall said in the movie Days of Thunder, "that's one too many roosters in the hen house."

Not that I'm against free enterprise, far from it. I guess you can just call me a traditionalist. Three manufacturers in the NEXTEL Cup Series seem like quite enough, thank you.

It takes quite a while for change to grow on me, and having Toyota come into the NEXTEL Cup Series will take some time for me to get used to the idea. Why that didn't happen when Dodge came into the series a few years ago, I don't know. I guess it's because they had been around before, and had been around in the truck series for such a period of time that it just made a lot of sense.

What teams were going to make the switch were not made immediately clear, but rumor had it that Bill Davis Racing would make the jump from Dodge with Michael Waltrip next season. He might as well give it a shot, considering the lack of competitiveness his teams have shown over the past couple of years. Dodge certainly wasn't the answer for Davis.

Now that Toyota will be making its foray into the NEXTEL Cup Series, who's next? Honda, another Japanese-based company, might not be too far behind. Rumblings from some of the writers around the circuit say there might be a little "chassis envy" of Toyota going on by Honda.

So, how will things change in NEXTEL Cup? Probably not much with what's going on at the track or on the track, except for the fact that when Toyota sponsors lunch, members of the media might be partaking of sushi instead of lasagna or pulled pork.

IMG'S GAIN: If there was anybody who was ever a "mover and a shaker," in NASCAR - Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. accepted - it's George Pyne.

Pyne, who helped institute NASCAR's lucrative aftermarket program, submitted his resignation this week as NASCAR's Chief Operating Officer to become the COO of International Management Group, perhaps the most well-known public relations firm in the world. He'll leave his position at NASCAR in February.

IMG represents such athletes as Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning, and has formerly managed the careers of legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana. IMG has over 70 offices throughout the world and represents not just athletes, but entertainers and businessmen as well.

Pyne was the No. 2 man behind Mike Helton at NASCAR. That being said, you can bank on it that the offer from IMG wasn't for peanuts.

Pyne was instrumental in putting together the plans for NASCAR's research and development center near Charlotte, N.C., as well as NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, headed by Director of Diversity and Special Projects Tish Sheets.

"George is a great friend. He's a very smart man, and a lot of the processes and procedures that NASCAR benefits from today, he brought to the table," NASCAR president Mike Helton told the media on Monday.

While Pyne's name may not be on the lips of race fans across the country, he was certainly a force in the NASCAR industry, and his presence will be missed.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2006

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