Minutes into the ceremonies at the gleaming Toyota Racing Development facility just north of Charlotte, TRD president Lee White also revealed that all three current NASCAR partners running Toyotas in Sprint Cup "are on very long runways and will be with us for years to come."
White later added: "Either at the beginning of this year or very recently, those three organizations -- Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing -- all have agreements with Toyota and TRD that extend beyond two more years. We'll say multi-year. We're not going to get into the specifics of our business ... but rest assured that we enjoy our partners, we value our partners and we expect to be competing on this dance floor a long time with these partners. As long as they'll have us."
In the end, obviously, owner Joe Gibbs decided that extending JGR's current association with Toyota made the most business sense.
"We're so intertwined with each other. I think, for us, Toyota is heavily involved in a lot of technical things -- our motor situation, engineering, this [Toyota Racing Development] building -- that I feel like we're way down the road in our relationship and very close-knit," Gibbs said. "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."
Asked what the long-term relationship with Toyota meant to him and his operation, Waltrip added: "This building, all the tools you see here; the ability for a separate team [from Toyota] to be working on the 2013 race car while we're racing our 2012 car. It all helps."
Waltrip singled out Andy Graves, TRD's vice president of chassis engineering, for helping turn his organization around after slow going in the beginning.
"I went to Andy in January of 2011 and said, 'I don't like where we are and where we're going. I need a strategy and a plan to go forward," Waltrip said. "That meeting in January of 2011 led to the results you're seeing today [from MWR].
"It meant leaning on Andy more, using this [TRD] facility more, pushing MWR and JGR together more. We continue to work toward sharing more projects with JGR and using this facility more."
Without Toyota's continued support, Waltrip added, he's not sure where he would be today with his race operation.
"When I started my team back in 2007, I envisioned it being like it is today -- but this place didn't exist, we weren't mature enough as an organization to understand our needs, and JGR wasn't there [as a Toyota partner] for us to lean on," Waltrip said. "We were green, naïve. We pulled into Daytona and lined up to race against guys who had been racing for 20 years or more. The task was mighty -- and we failed. To be able to survive and creep along and make small gains and now use this place and Andy and partner with JGR, it's finally working like I hoped it would when we first got started."
Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, said he also looks forward to a continued partnership with Toyota. But unlike JGR and MWR -- which currently have the combined total of five cars in the top 12 in owner's points and all six from both organizations in the top 16 in the Sprint Cup standings -- Daugherty said he's seeking much better results from a single-car operation that is 27th in owner's points with driver Bobby Labonte behind the wheel.
"It was never a question for us [about going to another manufacturer]. The big thing with us is just that we want to get better," said Daugherty, whose team moved into its own shop in Harrisburg, N.C., only last November and unlike JGR and MWR, does not currently get its motors from TRD. "We build really good race cars and bring them here [to the TRD facility in Salisbury] and aerodynamically they're good. But [Toyota] will do motor sets for Joe Gibbs and motor sets for Michael; we're with Triad [Racing Technologies] and we're struggling. We should be a top-20 race team with the resources we have and the people we have. We're not right now.
"It's comforting to know that [Toyota is] dug in and they're going to be behind us 100 percent. But we've got to get better. It sucks going to the race track and finishing 25th every week, because we're better than that."