Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: How Dominant Can a Manufacturer Be?

Ever since the beginning of auto racing, automotive manufacturers have been heavily invested in it. The money that pours in from companies like Ford, General Motors and Toyota is a direct correlation to their sales, marketing and development efforts, as in the case of the old adage, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

The thought for these companies is that the more successful their brand or brands are in auto racing against their rival manufacturers, the better their rapport will be when it comes to marketing their lineup of automobiles and services to consumers.

This is why Chevrolet has raised quite a few eyebrows in 2023. This weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, General Motors’ bellwether brand will try to capture its fifth win in as many races this season. Chevrolet may be starting to prove that its the manufacturer to beat this year. It might be because it cheats.

Oops, too soon?

Before we single out Chevrolet and the recent penalties accessed to its flagship organization Hendrick Motorsports and the ancillary Kaulig Racing, one has to acknowledge that bending rules has been commonplace in NASCAR since its founding.

Often, organizations and manufacturers do this to get an advantage to produce better results, and thus, better rapport on the showroom floor.

Now we should note that cheating is not a central reason why a manufacturer reigns supreme in the sport. In fact, it was not that long ago when Chevrolet was pining just to get one win. Certain manufacturers line up better with aerodynamic packages, racetrack configurations and regulations than others.

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Because these aspects of stock car racing change based on NASCAR’s wants and wishes, the success of manufacturers can ebb and flow. For example, take Buick.

A new generation of racecars was introduced to the Cup Series in 1981. The more compact version of the stock car suited the Buick better than its competitors as its drivers won 22 of the 31 events contested that season. They followed up by winning 25 out of 30 in 1982. But in 1983, Buick won only six times, with Chevrolet, Ford and Pontiac making up the difference.

Yet the example of Buick has been repeated numerous times.

The mid-2000s were very Chevrolet-dominant, as the “bowties” won 64% of the races in 2006 and 72% in 2007. Hudson was victorious in 27 of the 34 events in 1952 and Plymouth trounced the competition in 1967, winning 30 of 49.

Toyota had a stranglehold of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, winning 32 times between five different drivers. This is all the more impressive considering Toyota had just five full-time manufacturer-supported drivers in 2016 and six in 2017 among the 40-car fields.

But there may be no more dominant season in NASCAR history than Ford’s 1965 campaign. Ford won a whopping 49 times out of 55 races, including the first 34 of the season. But there is an asterisk, as NASCAR had banned Chrysler brands from competing for the majority of the season, which pitted Ford only against the much less powerful Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs of the day.

Still, what a way to open a season!

Speaking of opening a season, let’s turn our eyes back to Chevrolet in 2023. If a Chevrolet driver can win at Atlanta this weekend, it will mark the first time a manufacturer has opened up the season with five consecutive victories since 1995, when it took home seven straight.

Chevrolet has already become the first manufacturer to open up a season with four wins since 2001.

Even though hot starts are few and far between, they do happen. Hudson’s dominant 1952 campaign saw it win six events. Ford won nine en route to a fantastic 1992 season.

With the 2023 rules and package, Chevrolet has proven to have legal speed based on the aforementioned hot start. It is important to note that any penalties that have been assessed so far have been for part modifications confiscated before drivers hit the track.

So, if a Chevrolet can win again at Atlanta this weekend (oh, by the way, its drivers won the last three Atlanta Cup events), all eyes will turn to Ford and Toyota to see if they can catch the bowties, either legally or illegally.

About the author

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

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CHIEF

A manufacturer can be as dominant as the sanctioning body wants them to be !

Dawg

To answer the question about brand dominance, just watch F1.

The penalties won’t have anything to do with Chevy’s winning races. All it will do is tighten up the points a little, & change the playoff picture after the reset.

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