Toyota Racing Development has been showing off its new-look entry for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this week, which is set to make its début in the championship next February at the Daytona 500.
The new-look Camry is being introduced under new regulations in NASCAR for 2013 that allow manufacturers to bring back the look and feel of their individual brands to the cars, although underneath the bodywork the engine and chassis will still be strictly in accordance with NASCAR regulations.
"We all wanted race cars that look more like our stock production models," said Lee White, the president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development USA. "Our new Camry for 2013 is a great-looking race car. Everyone at Toyota is eager to have our drivers in a race car that more resembles the street Camry."
"It's important for NASCAR's product to be relevant," added NASCAR president Mike Helton.
The new Camry has a redesigned front-grille area to match the production model, an updated rear bumper, and the distinct character lines from the consumer street car model down the side of the vehicle.
The media event took place at the Toyota Racing Development facility just north of Charlotte, and the manufacturer chose Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch as their front man to bring the car in.
"To be able to come here and drive the car and be the one who got to unveil the 2013 Toyota Camry first was really neat," said Busch. "I think it's a cool-looking race car, and I can't wait to get out and drive it in an actual race."
Toyota confirmed that all three of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams currently signed with them for cars - Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing - have signed multi-year contract extensions with Toyota and TRD.
"We're so intertwined with each other," said JGR owner Joe Gibbs, who went on to characterise the relationship between his team and TRD as "very close-knit," adding: "I feel great about where we are. I don't think there was ever any doubt we were going to be together for a long time."
There had been rumours that Dodge were making a hard play to sign JGR to their roster to replace Penske Racing, who announced earlier this year
that they were going to be running Ford cars from next season after a decade with Dodge.
One of the reasons Roger Penske gave for the decision was the lack of other teams running Dodge equipment, and on Tuesday Michael Waltrip said it was the inverse of this position that made him want to stay with Toyota, knowing that he had JGR as a big brother in the line-up after enduring a hard solo struggle in the start-up years.
"To be able to survive and creep along and make small gains and now use this place and Andy [Graves] and partner with JGR, it's finally working like I hoped it would when we first got started," added Waltrip.Ford unveiled its 2013 Cup car
based on the new model Fusion production model at the start of the year, with Chrysler unveiling its new Dodge
Charger in March in Las Vegas. Chevrolet confirmed last week
that their 2013 Cup car will be the rear-wheel drive Chevrolet SS V8. The replacement to the current Chevy Impala SS is based on the street car being made by its Australian division Holden.
"Over the last 18 months, the manufacturers have all met either at the race track or via conference calls to try to work with NASCAR's direction where we could put our production car elements into these race cars while maintaining parity," said TRD vice president of chassis engineering, Andy Graves. "We all had some give-and-take, and it's been a long process. But we're very pleased with the results."