The most often overlooked championship trophy NASCAR awards at the end of each season is the one that crowns the winning Sprint Cup manufacturer.
It will never grab the headlines that the battle for the Sprint Cup driver’s title demands, but for Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota executives it is a great source of pride that validates their involvement in the sport.
While the driver’s championship is an individual title, the manufacturer’s title is more of a team award as any individual team that competes in the series can win points for its manufacturer. Points are awarded to the single highest finisher for each car manufacturer in each Sprint Cup race according to the finishing position awarded for each race. Points range from 40 for winning the race down to one point for the last finishing car.
The manufacturer’s championship also has a bonus point system built into it. Each manufacturer is awarded three bonus points for a win, and the highest finisher for each manufacturer can also pick up a bonus point for leading at least one lap or two if he/she leads the most laps. The bonus points are awarded after each race that awards driver’s bonus points with the exception of the final race of the season at Homestead, where no bonus points are awarded to the drivers.
Chevrolet has had a stranglehold on the manufacturer’s title in recent years as it has claimed every championship beginning with the 2003 season. That is a record 13- year streak that raises Chevrolet’s series leading all-time total to 39 championships. Ford won its last title in 2002 and trails Chevrolet in second place with 15. Toyota has yet to claim a title.
Even though Kyle Busch won last year’s driver’s championship in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Chevrolet was able to claim the Manufacturer’s based on its lineup’s overall strength that ended up with 15 wins compared to Toyota’s 14 and Ford’s seven trips to victory lane. Three different organizations (Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart- Haas Racing and Furniture Row Racing) won races in Chevrolets, Toyota’s wins all came from Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing accounted for all of Ford’s wins.
This season is beginning to shape up to like as if Chevrolet’s grip on the manufacturer’s title may be in jeopardy as Toyota is looking more and more like it may be putting itself in a position to win its first ever title. After the first 13 races of the season (not including Pocono), Toyota leads the series with eight wins, with all but one being put up by Joe Gibbs Racing.
Furniture Row Racing, which now has a strong alliance with Gibbs, has the other Toyota win. Chevrolet sits in second place with three wins (-31 points from the top) and Ford comes in third with two wins (46 points behind Chevrolet).
Winning the title doesn’t come cheap for the manufacturers, which invest millions in financial support, equipment and personnel. The real payback for investment doesn’t rest with a trophy on the shelf at corporate headquarters; it comes in car sales.
The old saying “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” may not be as true as it once was in the sport, but with race cars once again looking like what a customer can see in a dealer’s showroom it does go a long way in getting those customers through the door.
Event: FireKeepers Casino 400.
Track: Michigan International Speedway (2.0-mile D-shaped oval, 18o of banking in the turns).
Date: June 12, 1 p.m.
Defending Champion: Kurt Busch.