By admin | June 14, 2008
By Richard Allen
Since the Michigan International Speedway opened in 1968 it has served as a combination playground and battleground for the “Big 3” automobile makers based in nearby Detroit. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors have each vied for bragging rights against each other on what is considered their home track.
Last year, to the dismay of many in and out of Detroit, Toyota joined the NASCAR fray. However, once the season got underway it appeared as though there was little chance the Japanese auto giant would challenge for supremacy with the “Big 3”.
This year has been a different story. Not only has Toyota threatened to challenge the supremacy of the American manufacturers but they are about to actually dominate.
By adding Joe Gibbs Racing to their stable Toyota went from also ran to winners over the course of one off season. JGR has amassed five victories and has Kyle Busch atop the series standings. Those wins have come in places like Atlanta, Talladega and Richmond. The U.S. based companies did not want to lose on those tracks, but at least those tracks are not within the hub of the American auto industry.
For sure, Ford, Chrysler and GM do not want to lose to any other brand any where. But they do not want to lose to any of the other brand in their own backyard and have to live with the ridicule of their nearby competitors. But worse, none of the three want to lose to a foreign car maker and have one of those drivers celebrating in the shadow of their own corporate offices.
NASCAR has always been an American sport dominated by American manufacturers. But of late, that has changed. The “Big 3” are competing for more than just bragging rights this weekend in Michigan. They are competing for a certain measure of honor and pride.
A lot is at stake for the car companies. Toyota and its teams have no doubt put a great deal of emphasis on this race. We will soon see if Ford, Chrysler and GM are up to the challenge.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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