DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — There’s good news and bad news about this all-new 2020 Toyota Supra. The good news: It has a 650-horsepower V-8 engine, sticky slick tires, a custom-built roll cage, a manual transmission, and a top speed of close to 200 mph. And you’ll be able to get behind the wheel beginning on February 16 of next year!
The bad news: Unfortunately, to drive it, you have to be a NASCAR Xfinity Series racer. At a press conference Thursday evening at Daytona International Speedway in Florida, 24 hours before the start of NASCAR’s Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, Toyota announced that the Supra will be its Xfinity racer beginning with the 2019 season-opener in February at Daytona, replacing the Camry, which Toyota has used since 2007.
Toyota executives, surprisingly, stressed that the Supra is not expected to replace the Camry in the top-level NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series, the way the Chevrolet Camaro migrated from Xfinity to Cup in 2018, and the Ford Mustang moves to Cup in 2019, replacing the lame-duck Fusion. David Wilson, director of Toyota Racing Development, said he likes having three models of Toyotas in NASCAR competition—the Tundra pickup (though only one of the top-running Toyota trucks actually uses a Toyota engine), the Camry, and soon the Supra.
Automobile was one of a handful of media outlets invited to preview the Supra race car in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Toyota’s race facility there, and then in the wind tunnel. The composite-body Supra makes for a handsome race car, though the only real design tips from the street model are the nose, the tail, and the rear side window, which is essentially a window-looking decal, as it is on all the approved NASCAR models.
As with everything NASCAR approves, each new car must perform in the wind tunnel at essentially the same level as every other car. Aside from the nose and tail, the Xfinity Supra is pretty much the Camry, including under the skin, down to the 5.8-liter pushrod V-8 with a carburetor (fuel injection hasn’t leaked down from the Monster Energy Cup series yet), and a four-speed manual transmission. We don’t have the precise specs for the 2020 Supra street car yet—it’s due next spring—but we’re pretty sure it will be lighter than the Xfinity car (which weighs 3,400 pounds with a driver), and shorter (the Xfinity car is nearly 204 inches long, about the same as a Chevrolet Tahoe).
What we do know about the consumer Supra is that it has been developed in concert with BMW, much like the Toyota 86 is a near-twin to the Subaru BRZ. But the Toyota will be a coupe, while the new BMW Z4 will be purely a convertible. And power will come not from a V-8, but a six-cylinder. Both cars will be built in Austria—no big deal for NASCAR. After all, the Chevrolet SS was built in Australia.
Not surprisingly, the Toyota drivers and teams that have seen the new Supra are, in a word so often used in NASCAR, “excited.”
“I’m hoping to be the first guy to get Supra to victory lane,” said Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Kyle Busch, “but I’m sure there are a few other Toyota drivers thinking the same thing.”