The implications of Toyota’s move from the Legacy Motor Club

There’s no denying that the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season so far has been a huge disappointment for the Legacy Motor Club.

In the first 11 races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Legacy Motor Club teammates Erik Jones and rookie Noah Gragson only managed to score two top 10 finishes. Both, an eighth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a sixth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway, were recorded by Jones.

It was a bit unsettling to watch Monday’s race at Dover Motor Speedway, to see Jones run in the top 15 halfway through and finish in 16th place – and consider that a success.

That result was certainly a step up, but it was a far cry from the Petty GMS Motorsports team that saw Jones finish in the top 16 of the regular season points standings and win the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway the year last, when he scored 13 in total. 10 best finishes.

It was just a day after Monday’s Wurth 400 when Legacy Motor Club co-owner and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson announced the team would part ways with longtime manufacturer Chevrolet and switch to Toyota after 2023.

For Johnson, the driver who has been Chevrolet’s poster boy for more than 20 years, the announcement of this decision was a pretty strong statement.

Speaking to Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, he said the following.

“There are deep roots there (at Chevrolet), roots that will never change, and a pride in accomplishment. I’m so proud of the history books and everything we’ve written together, but time pass.

There had been rumors that this NASCAR team would be moving to Toyota long before Jimmie Johnson joined as co-owner, dating back to 2020.

A report suggested that Bubba Wallace, who drove the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports from 2018 to 2020, had been offered a stake in the team, and part of the deal included moving to Toyota for 2021.

With the Legacy Motor Club’s Toyota deal now official, Johnson explained the rationale for the change.

“When I left the sport (in 2020), there were still tests. There were other elements where the teams could develop and work on their own.

“With the way it’s positioned now, it’s really a function of the OEMs collecting the information, and that’s shared by the teams. Our deep alignment in 2024 and beyond with Toyota puts us in a very strong position to control our own destiny.

That’s the important part of the equation – OEMs collect and distribute Next Gen car information to their teams, rather than teams doing their own testing and coming to their own conclusions as we’ve seen in previous years.

Toyota has been a strong and often dominant contender in the Cup Series for quite some time now. They also did it with only two teams and only five or six cars.

Compare that to Chevrolet, where you have Hendrick Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing, Kaulig Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing and arguably even Spire Motorsports all ahead of Legacy Motor Club in the pecking order this year.

As the sixth or seventh most desired team and sixth or seventh lowest priority organization under the constructor’s wing, current affairs simply didn’t make sense for a team with such high expectations.

Joining Toyota as the third full-time operation in 2024 gives Legacy Motor Club a fresh start, as well as higher levels of access to new information they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Given that Jones and Gragson have competed for Toyota at a high level in the past, it’s also a huge bonus for the team and for Toyota to build on an already successful relationship.

With such fresh news, it’s unclear if Legacy Motor Club will enter into an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, as 23XI Racing did. Even if it’s not, being Toyota’s third team is still three times better than being Chevrolet’s sixth team – and that’s just the worst case scenario.

On a smaller scale, what does this move mean for Jimmie Johnson as a pilot?

He can obviously race as many Cup Series races as he wants in 2024, because he is part owner and the one who signed the deal, after all.

But if he wanted to race for Garage 56 at Le Mans next year – if NASCAR chooses to stage the 24-hour event again, that is – it would be difficult for him to do so, given that the car is a Chevrolet.

Indeed, according to NBC’s Nate Ryan, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) does not allow its drivers to compete for other manufacturers in series where Toyota is a competitor.

Luckily for Johnson, this policy won’t impact his chances of racing the 2024 Indy 500 with Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team or racing the DPi Ally Cadillac in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as Toyota is not participating. not to these series or its selected classes.

Whether or not moving to Toyota was the right move for the Legacy Motor Club, something had to change.

With this explosive announcement just 11 races into his tenure as team co-owner, Johnson shows he’s not afraid to pull the trigger and sacrifice strong bonds to do what he believes is best. . Only time will tell if his first big move is the right one.

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