After brutal start to 2015, is Toyota ready to bounce back big?

Toyota drivers Denny Hamlin (11) and Carl Edwards (19) are winless this season.

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No point in sugar coating it: So far the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has been brutal for Toyota’s top two teams, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.

Both squads have been hampered by medical issues off the track and disappointing performances on the track, but help may be on the way.

Wednesday afternoon news broke that JGR president J.D. Gibbs is being treated for symptoms affecting his brain functions, including speech and processing issues. This barely a month after Kyle Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a midfoot fracture of his left foot in a horrifying accident at the Daytona XFINITY Series race.

The medical news isn’t any better at MWR, where last week Brian Vickers suffered his fourth episode of blood clots or clot-related illness and will be out for at least three months and possibly much longer.

On the track, the news hasn’t been good, either.

The arrival of Carl Edwards and a fourth team at JGR was expected to pay big dividends. That hasn’t happened so far. Edwards is still looking for his first top-10 finish with the team and is 17th in points after five races, while teammates Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and David Ragan are 13th through 15th, respectively.

Clint Bowyer, MWR’s lead driver, is 20th, while Brett Moffitt is 31st after competing in four of the five races, including two with MWR. Moffitt will be back behind the wheel of the MWR No. 55 this weekend at Martinsville, although the team has made no commitments to him beyond this week.

David Wilson, the president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A., Toyota’s racing arm, expects those disappoint performance numbers to improve in the weeks ahead.

NASCAR community reacts to news of J.D. Gibbs' health setback

It showed a little at Auto Club Speedway last week, where Hamlin and Kenseth collectively led more laps in one race than every Toyota driver did in the first four races of the season combined.

Toyota won a record 14 races in 2013, but when NASCAR changed its rules package last year and eliminated the ride-height minimum, the Toyota teams struggled mightily, winning only two races all year long.

"The bottom line is, last year, we didn’t adapt well to it," Wilson said in an exclusive interview with "And it’s surprising, because more often than not, when NASCAR throws a change at the garage, our teams are very good at adapting because I do believe we have the resources and the intellect to maximize that, particularly right out of the gate."

It’s taken a long time to come grips with the struggles, but Wilson said he’s optimistic about making significant gains.

"The good news is, we’ve come to understand where we’re falling short, and we have a plan to get better," Wilson said.

Certainly, the drivers are ready for some good news.

"I still think there are some growing pains and understanding what their limits are and how aggressive they can be and how to get the most out of their Toyota Camry parts and pieces," said Ragan. "I think that’s the case with any manufacturer."

Brian Vickers expected to be out at least three months

"The JGR cars as a group ran really well at California, so that was a good day for us as a team," added Edwards.

Wilson said NASCAR’s championship format – win any of the 26 Sprint Cup regular season races and you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — gives the Toyota squads the opportunity to catch up.

"We expect to get better ever week," Wilson said. "From a perspective standpoint, you can still recover if you’re not where you need to be right at the start. With this new format, you have the opportunity to take some big swings at your cars and get better and win races before the Chase."

Now, they just have to do it.