King of the hill: Can Toyota grab the Sprint Cup in 2014?

Kyle Busch drives the No. 18 M&M's Toyota in the garage during NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway.

Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images

I’ve had some race fans ask me if I believe this is the year the Toyota could finally win their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. They’ve come so close in the past and almost got it done. The good news is you almost got it done. The bad news is they let everyone know how much better they are but didn’t get it done.

Chevrolet has had basically a choke-hold on the championship for a number of years other than Dodge winning it in 2012. When the other two manufacturers see how good Chevrolet is year after to year it does send a clear signal that Ford and Toyota have work to do.

In Toyota’s case, they know where their problem areas were last year. They lost engines at some very critical times last year. I think they would also admit they made some minor mistakes on their aero and handling packages at some tracks late in the season that cost them.

17 days until the Daytona 500

Chevrolet is very good about watching the competition and upping their game. Let’s face it the reality is all three manufacturers know that what they did in 2013 won’€™t be good enough in 2014. This is a different season with different challenges.

You hear us talk a lot during the offseason about who is going to be the first to figure out this new package handed down by NASCAR. Early on will be a good indication of who has their arms around it the best, at least initially, who is going to take advantage of the new Chase format and lock themselves in early.

Anytime you can get a driver to move from one manufacturer to another, it is a positive. For example, Jeff Burton has joined the Toyota camp after many years with Chevrolet. Jeff is going to be able to help the Toyota engineers and give them confirmation on things they thought they saw in the Chevrolets.

The reality in NASCAR is everybody watches everybody. Don’t for a second think that each team and manufacturer doesn’t have folks watching the other teams and manufacturers. That’s just what goes on in our sport to get the job done. This is part of what makes our sport so fun. It’s the never-ending battle of guys trying to get to the top and guys trying to stay at the top. Simplistically, it’s a very, very expensive version of "King of the Hill."