AUTO RACING Toyota will withdraw as engine supplier to IRL
The Japanese auto manufacturer may move into NASCAR's Nextel Cup.
TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) -- Toyota will end a 12-year run as an engine supplier in U.S. open-wheel racing after the 2006 IRL season, the Japanese auto manufacturer said Monday night.
"This was simply a decision to move in a different direction after having our major U.S. motorsports emphasis on open-wheel racing since 1994," said Toyota vice president J. Davis Illingworth.
Toyota moved into NASCAR last year with a fleet in the Craftsman Truck series. There has been considerable speculation that the company will move up to the Busch series in 2006 or 2007 and eventually move into Nextel Cup, challenging Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge, which currently race in NASCAR's top stock car series.
"We are continuing to explore our options in NASCAR," said Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports. "However, at the present time our continued focus is on the Craftsman Truck Series."
General Motors announced last year that it will withdraw its Chevrolet engines from the IRL at the end of this season. With Toyota leaving after next year, that would leave Honda as the only engine manufacturer in the IRL.
The decision to withdraw from open-wheel racing will not affect either the IndyCar Series engine development program for the remainder of 2005 or the 2006 season, or any of the current contracts Toyota has with individual teams, the manufacturer said.
Toyota won the manufacturer's title in the former CART series and Cristiano da Matta took the driving championship in 2002. A year later, Toyota moved to the Indy Racing League and repeated both titles, with Scott Dixon finishing first in the standings.