Japanese likely to spend big

Posted: Thursday, June 05, 2003

LONG POND, Pa. Corporate America already knows what it's like to go up against Japan's tenacity and deep pockets.

That's why the word Toyota sends shock waves throughout the NASCAR garage area.

The Japanese carmaker doesn't take on projects lightly. Toyota spends a lot of money and seems to have unlimited resources when it comes to racing. The company spent more than $35 million to win the IMSA sports car championship, and in the process it drove the racing organization out of business.

It joined the IRL IndyCar Series this year and swept the top-two finishing positions in May's Indianapolis 500.

Now that Toyota is prepared to bring its Tundra to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, most figure that's only a first step. If it's able to expand to the Busch and Winston Cup series, Detroit is concerned it won't be able to stand toe-to-toe in a spending and technology war.

''They're going to throw a lot of money at it,'' said Dodge driver Bill Elliott. ''A lot of smaller teams won't be able to compete. It's going to turn our world upside down.''

General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler aren't going to accept Toyota with open arms. DaimlerChrysler and Dodge already have filed a lawsuit with one of its former teams for reportedly working with Toyota's truck program.

Dodge dropped Bill Davis Racing two weeks ago, meaning Ward Burton and Kenny Wallace no longer will have factory support. That means no equipment, technology or wind tunnel time.

The car company also is suing Davis, saying he may have given Toyota some trade secrets as Davis helped them prepare for its debut next year. The suit claims Davis built a Toyota truck, fitted with a Dodge engine, then sent the truck to the wind tunnel at Marietta, Ga.

In 2000, Dodge agreed to give Davis cash, parts, cars and technical information as well as wind tunnel time for his Winston Cup Series teams. While Davis runs a Chevrolet on the Busch Series circuit with driver Scott Wimmer, that didn't seem to bother Dodge as much as his apparent interest in running a Toyota truck in 2004.

Davis has refused comment since Dodge terminated the relationship for a ''material breach of contract.'' According to the team's Web site, Davis said he will prove he didn't violate the terms of his agreement with Dodge.

Burton and Wallace both are scheduled to drive a Dodge in this Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

AMERICA'S PASTIME: Baseball, America's pastime, might need to follow racing's lead if it wants to put people back in the stands.

Recent figures show baseball is suffering its worst average attendance since the 1996 season. At the same time, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series is reporting record crowds.

Racers now have their own ideas how to get people back to baseball.

''Make it an event not a game, but an event,'' said Kyle Petty. ''By starting with the race, then bringing in additional value, the races have become more and more of a 'can't miss' type thing. Look at somebody like, say, Humpy Wheeler (president at Lowe's Motor Speedway). He makes it an event. He makes it more than just watching a race but adds a lot of additional value to it through pre-race shows, a real circus atmosphere for the fans.''

Derrike Cope said baseball needs to re-evaluate its audience.

''I think a lot of major league teams tend to think more along the lines of national rather than regional, and it costs them,'' Cope said. ''You have to remember your market, remember who your audience is. The marketing lessons are the same, regardless of the sport and regardless of the business type.''

PIT STOPS: P.J. Jones, son of racing legend Parnelli Jones, will drive A.J. Foyt's stock car on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., later this month. Foyt's grandson, Larry, will get the weekend off. ... Boris Said, another road-racing ace, will drive the U.S. Army car for Mike Wallace at Sonoma. ... NASCAR probably will announce next week the racing date for the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway will move to the California Speedway in 2004. ... Frank Kimmel will be ready to relieve Bill Elliott if his broken foot becomes a problem during this Sunday's Pocono 500. ... Penske Racing South co-owner Don Miller said the team has no intention of expanding beyond their current roster of Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman.

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