DAYTONA BEACH - A new era in popular American motorsports history begins tonight when a foreign manufacturer, Toyota, debuts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Toyota is coming into the series in a big way. Four of its Tundras will start among the top 12 trucks in the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona International Speedway, including defending series champion Travis Kvapil.
Kvapil will start third in the No.24. He won the title after the final race last season when Ted Musgrave was penalized for an illegal pass on a late restart.
Musgrave, who starts 16th in the No.1 Dodge, promised to bring a nasty attitude to the track.
"Next year you're going to see a whole new Ted Musgrave," he said after losing the title. "He's going to be the dirtiest (person) out there on the race track, and you might as well throw the rule book away. I ain't going by it no more."
He repeated that mantra a few weeks ago on the Charlotte motorsports media tour, saying he'd changed the sign on his home race shop from Musgrave Motorsports to Mad Dog.
Terry Cook ended Dodge's stranglehold on poles at Daytona by earning the top starting spot in the No.10 Ford with a qualifying lap of 183.643 mph.
"We had our back against the fence, because we had no provisionals," Cook said. "We had no points, and to come here and sit on the pole, this is big. This is Daytona."
Rookie of the year candidate Chase Montgomery has the outside pole in the No.8 Dodge.
The other Toyotas in the field start eighth, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, and 17th among a field of 36.
"I knew we would do well, but not this well," Kvapil said. "Toyota didn't have a lot of time to fine-tune the engine, but they should be very proud of the improvements they made from testing in January."
GOOD NEWS: The new Champ Car World Series is on the verge of winning two battles.
Today, owners Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven are expected to close a deal that will put the open-wheel series back on track. They won a bidding war for the former CART series in bankruptcy court two weeks ago.
Next week, the new series probably will announce that Jimmy Vasser will continue racing in the renamed series.
"I'm bullish on Champ Car," Vasser said Thursday night. "I really believe the market has hit bottom, and I'm bullish on the future of Champ Car."
The addition of the former CART champion would give the circuit another name driver, joining the likes of Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira - the top two finishers in the standings last year.
The question now is which team will Vasser join.
Speculation has centered on PK Racing, which is owned by Kalkhoven and Craig Pollock.