GMS Racing announced on June 17 its intention to pursue a Cup Series team in 2022. Nearly two months later, another full-time NASCAR Truck Series team is reportedly making a similar move with support from Toyota.
According to a “TobyChristie” report on Thursday, Aug. 12, industry sources have confirmed that an unnamed Truck Series team will be part of a Cup Series team for “at least part of the 2022 season.” The sources did not reveal the name of the team or the number of races that the team will pursue. However, the reported involvement of Toyota Racing Development provided some key information.
The outlet also reported that the racing fans and analysts may not have to wait a considerable amount of time before learning the identity of the team. The announcement could take place “as early as this week.”
If the team opts to pursue a full-time schedule in 2022, there will be one significant hurdle to overcome. The team would potentially have to obtain a charter that would guarantee entry to every race, as well as a larger portion of the race purse. However, the team could pursue a partial schedule, a la Kaulig Racing in 2021, without acquiring the charter.
A Championship-Contending Team is Less Likely to Join Cup
With the report that a full-time Truck Series team would make the leap to Cup in some capacity, there were immediate guesses about its identity. There are several that currently work with TRD, including those with championship contenders in the stable.
Kyle Busch Motorsports, the three-truck team with regular-season champion John Hunter Nemechek leading the way, has a long and healthy relationship with TRD. Owner Kyle Busch drives a Toyota Camry in the Cup Series, and his team relies on Toyota Tundra pickups while pursuing wins.
KBM would seem like a natural fit for a partial Cup schedule, but Busch seemingly shut down the rumors with a strong statement. He told reporters at Nashville Superspeedway in late June that Nemechek is a good enough driver to find success in the Cup Series, but he added that the financial hurdles are standing in the way.
“I think it’s going to be a bit expensive the first couple of years for sure, but it might then start to equal out and be okay in the long run,” Busch said, per NBC Sports. “I guess if this was back in 2012, 2013 and when I had the Monster [Energy] opportunity, then I would say, hell yeah. It makes sense to do it because you’ve got the upfront money. The only way to do it right is to get a charter, get some of that guaranteed income, and stuff like that.
“I’ve not even looked into it, so I don’t know if there is any kind of charter stuff available or what not, but where we are at and what we are doing now – we’re in a good spot with the truck stuff,” Busch added. “We are leaders of the [Toyota Racing Development] driver development program and the beginning of that. I say the beginning – we are the beginning of Truck on up. It’s probably just not going to happen.”
Another Prominent Toyota Team Has the Talent
With Busch seemingly shutting down the idea that he would pursue a Cup Series team like teammate Denny Hamlin, there is another option that could become a likely candidate. ThorSport Racing is a Truck Series powerhouse that currently fields four full-time trucks, as well as a part-time ride.
Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Grant Enfinger, and 2016 Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter currently race full-time for ThorSport. 20-year-old Christian Eckes, on the other hand, is a part-time driver that works in the TRD pipeline and has one top-five finish in 2021.
ThorSport has the name recognition, the sponsors, and a mix of veterans and young drivers to pursue a possible Cup Series team. Sauter has 85 Cup Series starts to his name and one top-five finish, the 2007 race at Richmond. Rhodes has one start in NASCAR’s top series while Crafton has two.
ThorSport may be a more likely candidate to make the leap to Cup, but there is no guarantee that the organization will opt to do so. Halmar Friesen Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, or multiple other organizations could be this mystery team yet to make an announcement.