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Watching Black Flags Matter: Toyota’s Worst NASCAR Cup Series Season

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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Our friend Darian of the popular YouTube channel Black Flags Matter recently released a new video breaking down the worst season, by-far Toyota has ever had once breaking into the NASCAR Cup Series. Let’s check it out!

The video opens up with a clip from the now defunct but very much missed television network, the Speed Channel’s show The Wind Tunnel. In the clip, host Dave Despain is taking viewer calls. A sixteen-year-old NASCAR fan calls in to beg the question: when will Toyota become as dominant in the NASCAR Cup Series as they were at the time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series? The answer the panelists give is that as soon as Toyota starts recruiting teams like HMS and RCR, teams that were, at the time, juggernauts and still are, by and large, today, the NASCAR Cup Series would start to get similar results.

They go on to make the point that a struggling Bill Davis Racing, a Busch team-turned Cup team in Michael Waltrip Racing, and the start-up Red Bull Racing from over in F1 just wasn’t going to cut it. At the time, they were very correct and 2007 as the absolute worst year in history for the international manufacturer.

Darian starts the conversation with the oldest team of the trio–Bill Davis Racing. Bill Davis’s relationship with Toyota started somewhat rocky. Previously, they were with Dodge. But, when Chrysler got a whiff of Bill Davis developing trucks with Toyota, they pulled all their factory support. It would still be a handful of years before Toyota was ready to make the leap to Cup competition.

In 2007, Dave Blaney (who the drove the iconic No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota made famous by previous driver, Ward Burton) would finish the highest of all the Toyota drivers in the points standings. He would get 1 top-5 and 4-top 10s. He’d end the season 31st in the standings. And he was the BEST Toyota had to offer for the season!

Blaney also had a teammate in Jeremy Mayfield. On paper, he is listed as part-time though he was supposed to make attempts to run all 36 races. The reason he is listed as “part-time” is because he failed to qualify for more races than he made. The bright spot for Blaney that season was that he would capture the Bud Pole Award…once. Meanwhile, he DNFed 8 times and failed to qualify for 3 of the scheduled 36 races. His average finish was 26.9.

Next up, we take a look at Red Bull Races. Yes, THAT Red Bull Racing–an American offshoot of the dominant (at the time) F1 team. While Bill Davis Racing was crippled and on the verge of shutting down (they’d be out of the sport entirely by the end of 2008), Red Bull Racing was on the opposite side of that spectrum. They were a start-up and, considering the team’s dominant ways in F1, it wasn’t hard to see why there was so much hype around the team. And, while the team would grow into a fairly competitive one and win races with the likes of their flagship driver, Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne in his lame-duck year between stints at Evernham and HMS, 2007 was an utter disaster.

The lineup for 2007 would be the aforementioned Brian Vickers in the No. 83 and rookie AJ Almendinger, an unproven hotshot jumping over from CART. Vickers would outshine his teammate, scoring 1 top-5 and 5 top-10 finishes. He would finish 38th in points after DNQing for 13 races. He had an average finish of 25th and 5 DNFs. Almendinger would finish 43rd in points and would fail to qualify for a whopping 19 races.

Then there was the infamous Michael Waltrip Racing. After spending a season in partnership with Bill Davis Racing, Michael Waltrip would bring his MWR team from the Busch Series up to Cup.

They would have 3 entries: Michael Waltrip himself in the No. 55 Napa Chevy, sponsorship that remained loyal to him from his DEI days until the infamous debacle of spingate; veteran Dale Jerrett in the No. 44 with familiar sponsorship in UPS…he would have a champions provisional; and rookie from Darrell Waltrip’s truck series program, David Reutimann, who drove the No. 00 with sponsorship from Burger King and Dominos.

BFM gets the obvious out of the way off the bat: the cars looked beautiful. But a good coat of paint can only take you so far. Across the whole team, they only scored two top-10 finishes, both being scored by Michael Waltrip at plate tracks. However, due to a massive points penalty and DNQing for 11 straight races (due to a substance from jet fuel being found in the car’s fuel tank), Michael Waltrip would have -27 points until June of that year.

David Reutimann would end the season 39th in points, former champion, Dale Jerrett coming home in 41st, and the boss-man himself, Mikey, coming in an embarrassing 44th. Reutimann would DNQ 10 times, Jarrett 12 times, and Michael Waltrip would fail to make the field for 19 races.

BFM ends the video by looking forward to the dynasty we all know and Wind Tunnel predicted Toyota would become. They would attract Joe Gibbs Racing and an unproven but motivated (scary!) Kyle Busch would score the manufacturer their first win at Atlanta in 2008.

Toyota currently sits in fifth on the manufacturer all-time wins list with 175. Despite the dominance AFTER the 2007 season, BFM gives props to those three original teams who laid the foundation for all the success that was to come.

In The Stands

Yes, Jonathonlannon, DW’s frustrations over MWR’s struggles were priceless. I remember the “for Pete’s sake, brother” line when it happened. It’s hard not to smirk.

I remember the talk that they were going to struggle, too, BigEOT3. JGR was down at the time, save for Tony Stewart and nobody at the time could imagine that KFB would go on to do everything he’s done thus far. It was incomprehensible for some.

I agree with LessGo7921. The No. 36 scheme was WICKED!

Toyota probably should have waited a year. It was two much to expect three teams, two of them essentially start-up operations, to have to build two different kinds of car only for one of them to become obsolete by season’s end.

Daily Downforce readers! Do you remember Toyota’s abysmal 2007 season? Or is the idea that Toyota was ever anything other than dominant alien to you? Let us know on all of our socials and keep it right here for more fun NASCAR-themed reads and news stories.

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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