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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Toyota Shows Signs of Improvement at Charlotte

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After dominating the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last year, Toyota teams didn’t show as much strength through the first 11 races of the season.

Martin Truex Jr. has been the only competitor to reach Victory Lane as he has captured two wins at Las Vegas and Kansas. However, his teammate Erik Jones and the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have struggled to match his success.

After winning last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race with Kyle Busch, the Toyota camp entered the Coca-Cola 600 with added confidence.

It paid off as they excelled on Sunday by winning the first three stages as Busch, Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin all picked up a valuable playoff point.

While they ultimately didn’t win the race as Austin Dillon stretched his fuel mileage in the Final Stage for his first career victory, four Toyota competitors finished fifth or better for the first time since the 2016 DAYTONA 500.

Busch passed Truex Jr. on the final lap to finish second, and Matt Kenseth ended up fourth followed by Hamlin in fifth.

One year ago, Truex Jr. put on a historic performance and led all but eight laps of the race en route to victory. He showed similar signs of dominance by leading a race-high 233 circuits on Sunday.

Both Busch and Hamlin also paced the field for a combined 73 laps, marking the third consecutive race Busch has been out front.

Running well at Charlotte Motor Speedway also shows improvement on 1.5-mile facilities that will be crucial when contending for the championship this fall, especially when returning to the speedway in October. 

Now carrying this momentum into the upcoming races at a variety of venues will be the next test for the manufacturer to overcome. 

Heading to Dover where Toyota drivers swept last season with Kenseth and Truex Jr., and Pocono where the two drivers also swept in 2015 shows that they have run well at the tracks before and can again in the next two weeks. 

If the Toyota competitors are back to their dominant ways after thriving at Charlotte, more strong showings could be ahead in the next month and throughout the summer stretch. 

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.