Toyota drivers are set to compete in NASCAR, midget and off-road racing over the upcoming weekend as the NASCAR Playoffs continue and Toyota midget racers pursue USAC and POWRi titles.
Kansas Speedway will host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series this weekend as the Cup Playoff field is cut to eight drivers.
The Kansas Cup race is the final event of the second, three-race eliminator round of the postseason and two Camry drivers – Kyle Busch (ninth in points) and Matt Kenseth (10th) – currently sit below the eight-place cutoff. A Kansas win guarantees advancement into the Round of 8, while a strong finish could also aide the Camry duo into the next round.
“Adam (Stevens, crew chief) will have a good M&M’S Halloween Camry and we will keep doing what we’ve been doing well all year long and see where the points fall for us if we can’t get a win,” Busch said. “If we didn’t have those bonus points, we wouldn’t have much shot going into this weekend, so I’m thankful that the system is in place that rewards the good runs we had during the regular season.”
Camry driver Martin Truex Jr. continues to lead the standings and will advance into the Round 8 after opening the second postseason stretch with a win at Charlotte, while Toyota’s Denny Hamlin ranks fifth – just 21 points above Busch in ninth.
Truex was the most-recent Cup race winner at Kansas in May, but all four Camry playoff contenders have won at the track in Toyotas – Busch in 2016, Hamlin in 2012 and Kenseth in 2013. Kenseth has led the most laps on the 1.5-mile track with 774 in 23 starts, including two total wins (2012-2, 2013-1) and 13 top-10s. Truex ranks second with 622 laps led in 18 starts at Kansas.
On Sunday, in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Toyota’s Kansas City region, in partnership with The University of Kansas Health System, will also host 22 breast cancer survivors from across the area at Kansas Speedway on October 22. In addition to attending Sunday’s MENCS race, survivors will be paired with Cup Series drivers in a Toyota Tundra during the driver introduction parade lap. Each Tundra will also feature pink stripes in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In the XFINITY Series, Camry drivers have won seven-of-the-last nine races at Kansas, including four-straight victories. Busch, who is not competing in Saturday’s race, has won the last three NXS races at the track.
Camry title contender Matt Tifft ranks eighth in XFINITY points in the Round of 8 three-race segment that begins in Kansas. Tifft will need a win in the next three races or to move into the top-four in points to compete in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Christopher Bell will make his fifth-career XFINITY start this weekend before moving full-time to the series in 2018.
The Cup Series will race at Kansas on Sunday, Oct. 22 with live coverage on NBCSN and SiriusXM Radio (Channel 90) at 3:00 p.m. ET. The XFINITY Series races at Kansas on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 2:00 p.m. and is broadcasted on NBC and SiriusXM Radio (Channel 90). The Truck Series will have a week off before competing at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 28.
Ryan Millen and Rhianon Gelsomino will close out their championship-winning 2017 campaign with the Rally RAV4 competing in the Lake Superior Performance Rally in Michigan on Saturday and Sunday.
Since first taking the 2WD championship in the inaugural American Rally Association (ARA) season with their Toyota RAV4, the duo recently won the Prescott Rally in Arizona to garner the NASA Rally Sport National Championship for the third year in a row. The Toyota team will now compete in the two-day Rally America event in Michigan.
Rod Millen, Ryan’s father who has a long history racing with Toyota, has won the Michigan rally multiple times, but Ryan recorded a DNF in the 2016 event due to an issue on the first day.
“Last year, we only ran the stages on Friday,” Millen said. “We were in the thick of the fight, a couple of seconds behind, and we pushed just a little too hard. We were going for the win.”
The RAV4 team finished first in the 2WD class in each event of the 2017 ARA season, as well as first overall in the recent Arizona event sanctioned by NASA, but finished second in their only other Rally America appearance this year at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Missouri in March.
Spencer Bayston, an eight-time winner in midget racing action this year, will lead a 10-car Toyota contingent into this weekend's Jason Leffler Memorial at the Wayne County Speedway in Illinois on Sunday.
Co-sanctioned by USAC and POWRi, the event should draw one of the strongest midget car fields of the season as Bayston continues his USAC title battle with fellow Toyota driver Brady Bacon. Tucker Klaasmeyer will also look to chase down teammate Logan Seavey for the championship in the final POWRi event of the season.
Toyota’s Eric Barron will look to collect his first win of the season as the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series wraps up its 2017 campaign at Arizona’s Wild Horse Motorsports Park this weekend.
The final round of the regular season will take place on Saturday followed by a non-points PRO 2/PRO 4 Challenge Cup Race on Sunday.
Lisa Hughes Kennedy