Toyota Hoping to Recreate the 2017 Magic as Their New Camry Prepares for the 2024 NASCAR Season

Published 01/27/2024, 1:53 PM EST

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Heading into the 2024 season, many teams are looking forward to the new challengers brought by Ford and Toyota. While the Mustang Dark Horse may have taken the upper edge on the Camry XSE for many based on looks alone, the story could be quite different under the hood.

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With Legacy Motor Club committing themselves to using the XSE next season, could we have a title contender on our hands? If we take a look back at the 2017 season and how the new Camry’s predecessor helped Martin Truex Jr claim victory, the confidence that Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI are continuing to show should ideally not go in vain.

Toyota Racing Development shows early signs of 2024 dominance

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2017 was truly the season that Toyota cemented itself as an equal competitor to the American giants. Not only did the 2018 Camry TRD, which debuted in 2017, win 16 out of the 36 races it entered that season, but it also took Martin Truex Jr, who was an unlikely candidate for the championship, to that very top step. Even drivers like Brad Keselowski couldn’t help but call out NASCAR for letting one manufacturer get so far ahead of the others.

And it wasn’t only the championship win that made it so impressive. They sealed the second spot in the championship as well with Kyle Busch, leaving both Chevy and Ford in the dust. But now that the very successful Camry TRD is bidding farewell to the sport, its successor has big shoes to fill in. And once we take a look at what the president of Toyota Racing Development, David Wilson, had to say, it becomes evident that the future could bring much-welcomed déjà vu.

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During the winter testing for the new cars that NASCAR had set up in December, Toyota executives had plenty to smile about after Christopher Bell delivered a stellar performance. Wilson was quoted by NASCAR, “We did a couple little mock racing runs, and Christopher (Bell) went from the back to the front. When he was in front, he gapped the field. It’s the only data point we have, and everyone felt good. I think this is the best body that we’ve ever taken to the race track. Obviously, experience will prove that out.”

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While these are certainly big claims coming from Toyota’s racing vision, the new Camry XSE certainly has a few tricks up its sleeve. Looking at the rear diffuser, Wilson shared that the team has taken out some downforce to maximize their speed at Superspeedways. So with the manufacturer’s top boss himself as confident as ever, the 2024 season very well could be a repeat of 2017.

WATCH THIS STORY: Toyota’s Bold Move With The New Camry XSE Takes on Ford’s Mustang Dark Horse

But while all seems to be going Toyota’s way, the President is also certainly feeling the pressure as there are major expectations from many familiar faces.

Despite exhibiting premature confidence, the pressure is piling on the manufacturer

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2024 will be a year of reunion for quite a few faces with Toyota, from Matt Kenseth as an advisor at Legacy Motor Club to Erik Jones driving a Camry once again, the successor to the Camry TRD has an experienced jury to convince. And speaking of experience, there’s no one the manufacturer wants to surprise more than Jimmie Johnson.

Speaking on the new alliance with Legacy Motor Club, Wilson was quoted by NASCAR, “We take a great amount of responsibility anytime a new organization signs on to Toyota, and to have someone like Jimmie Johnson, a Hall of Famer now and a seven-time champion, and someone who’s only run with one OEM their entire career, that’s a massive pressure. It’s a massive accountability and responsibility that we take very seriously.

And the pressure will not only come from their new collaboration with Johnson’s side. Joe Gibbs Racing is also eager to return to the top step. Wilson assured that his expectations of all four drivers making it to the playoffs should be met, with Ty Gibbs also perhaps bringing home a victory. On the other hand, Wilson was also confident in 23XI’s chances of making it to the playoffs, which means things could once again swing either way.

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But even with all the confidence showcased by TRD, the new cars have only got one practice session under their belt so far. This means the true performance will only come to light once things kick off at the Clash. Do you think Toyota can truly repeat its 2017 dominance?

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Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed

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Kabir Bajaj Ahmed is an F1 & NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Known for his storytelling and extensive research skills, he has covered multiple stories on Dale Earnhard Jr and his legendary dad, allowing readers to relive the thunderous days of 'The Intimidator'. Being a racer himself, Kabir can resonate with the motorsport world better than most.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Ramesh

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