When a successful team makes a manufacturer change, many may ask, why?
ThorSport Racing is a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series mainstay; one of its longest-running organizations with a rich history and plenty of success. Most of that success has been in recent years under the Toyota banner, including a championship. Just last season, ThorSport had two teams in the playoffs vying for a title. A few weeks ago, however, ThorSport announced they are switching from Toyota to Ford and that move could pay dividends.
On paper it may seem logical to have stayed with Toyota as flagship driver Matt Crafton has been a championship contender every season for the last several seasons, winning multiple races each year, and ultimately winning the 2014 championship. During their time with Toyota, ThorSport also grew into a multi-truck team and has won races with drivers and teams in addition to Crafton. Just last season, both Crafton and Ben Rhodes won races and each finished top-five in the overall standings. This level of success has propelled the always successful team into a powerhouse team in the Truck Series but sometimes a manufacturer change can create an even more successful situation.
A recent example of this would be Furniture Row Racing in the Cup Series, a team who spent years with Chevrolet before finding ultimate success with Toyota. It took years for the single-car team to find success in the Cup Series but after aligning with Richard Childress Racing, they found victory lane on two occasions and made the playoffs twice. Their last season with Chevrolet was their most successful with that manufacturer as it won a race and made the final four of the playoffs.
So why did they change to Toyota for 2016?
By aligning themselves with Toyota, they became the second factory-supported team in that stable along with Joe Gibbs Racing, with whom they formed an alliance. During their time with Chevrolet, powerhouse teams such as Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart Haas Racing, and Richard Childress Racing were also under the Chevrolet banner. With fewer Toyota teams and factory support, Furniture Row Racing flourished under its newfound Toyota partnership. In their first year with Toyota, they enjoyed their first multiple-win season and made the playoffs. Last season, they won the most races in a season in team history and won the championship.
In a similar example, ThorSport Racing was a second Toyota team along with Kyle Busch Motorsports, both of which field multiple trucks. Kyle Busch Motorsports has a strong relationship with Toyota as Busch himself is an élite driver in the Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. The team is also used to develop future talent for Toyota’s NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series teams, specifically Joe Gibbs Racing. These rich relationships show how Kyle Busch Motorsports will always be a top Toyota team in the Truck Series. While ThorSport certainly enjoyed a lot of success with Toyota, the change to Ford will make them the only multi-truck team within the Ford Truck Series stable.
With Brad Keselowski Racing opting to withdraw from Truck Series competition for 2018, ThorSport Racing will become the only major Ford Truck Series team and will receive support from the manufacturer. It’s an opportunity that will make ThorSport the star of the Ford show in the Truck Series and provides the team an opportunity to enjoy even greater success. With Ford strengthening their driver development efforts, the ThorSport team could be used as a driver development tool within Ford for years to come. So while the Toyota years were good years, anytime a team can be a manufacturer’s focal point in a given series should allow for that team to flourish. If ThorSport Racing and Ford have their way, they’ll be hoisting the championship trophy at Homestead in November.