Is Toyota domination a thing of the past?
Last year at this time, Chevrolet had pretty much dominated the sport and then the Toyotas found their groove and ended up winning the 2015 championship. Ironically now I think we are seeing the old saying "the shoe is on the other foot" coming to bear.
Toyota has dominated this season up until the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup races. They had a string of 35 races where at least one Toyota was in the Top 5 at the end of the race. Now that has come to an end these last couple weeks. I do believe that the Ford's of Team Penske and the Chevrolets of not only Hendrick Motorsports but Stewart-Haas Racing have finally caught up to Joe Gibbs Racing.
We've seen some rule changes of late. Naturally when there are rule changes the general perception is that it affects everyone equally. I just don't think it is the case when it comes to the Toyotas.
I think we've seen since the All-Star race back in May, that the tweaking of the aero package by NASCAR, coincidental or not, has affected the Fords and Chevrolets in a positive manner but just the opposite for the Toyotas.
Joe Gibbs Racing led zero laps at Charlotte and at Michigan. Now remember this is coming on the heels of basically a full year of having at least one of their cars finish in the top five each and every week.
There have been some interesting circumstances to go along with that as well. Look at Kyle Busch after winning Kansas. His last four finishes since then have been 30th or worse. There were three accidents and an engine overheating at Michigan.
Teammate Denny Hamlin won the 2016 Daytona 500 and put up three top five finishes in the first five races of the new season. I think he's only had one or two top fives in the last 10 races. So that is someone where the performance is not where it should be. With that said, you simply can't ignore the No. 11 car with 10 pit road penalties. Their problems on pit road have been varied and all over the place.
So yes, it certainly appears the gap between the Toyotas to the Chevrolets and Fords has definitely been closed. I still believe the Joe Gibbs Toyotas will be a factor when we get to the Chase in September.
At the end of the day however, the gap between the early-season dominant manufacturer, to the other two has definitely been closed.