NHRA announced today that Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., has expanded its participation in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series through a multi-year agreement to become the title sponsor of the fall event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas.
As the penultimate race of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 24 - 27, will feature contenders in the Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle categories as they battle for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship titles.
As title sponsor, Toyota will have extensive on-site visibility as well as commercial inventory in the ESPN2 telecasts of the event. Given its close proximity to the SEMA Show, the world's premier automotive-specialty-products trade event staged annually by the Specialty Equipment Market Association and traditionally held in Las Vegas, Toyota has additional promotional opportunities.
"With the combination of the key round in the Countdown, the lead-in to SEMA the following week and the overall excitement of Las Vegas, the NHRA Toyota Nationals is a guaranteed winner," said Keith Dahl, national manager, motorsports and engagement marketing at Toyota. "The race always plays a crucial role in deciding the NHRA championship, and with opportunities we have to cross promote with SEMA, we are looking forward to growing the event even further in the future."
"Over the last decade, Toyota has continued to increase its involvement in NHRA Drag Racing, becoming an integral part of the sport at the team level and sanctioning body," said Gary Darcy, senior vice president of sales and marketing, NHRA. "We appreciate Toyota's commitment and look forward to working with them to develop exciting activation plans around their sponsorship of the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas."
Toyota's involvement in NHRA began in 2002 with the arrival of the Celica-bodied Funny Car. The manufacturer's first win came two years later, in February 2004 at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.).
The program has risen to new heights over the past four years as Toyota-sponsored cars have gone to the winner's circle 64 times, with 56 of those coming in Top Fuel competition. In 2012, Antron Brown earned six victories on the way to capturing the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel world championship, the third consecutive for a Toyota-sponsored entry. The 2012 season also saw the debut of the new TRD-designed Funny Car with both Cruz Pedregon and Jeff Arend driving the new Toyota Camry to victory circle. In 2011, Del Worsham won a series-high eight races on the way to the Top Fuel title. In addition, Larry Dixon drove a Toyota-sponsored Top Fueler to the 2010 world championship, while Cruz Pedregon won the 2008 Funny Car title in a Camry Solara Funny Car.
Toyota currently sponsors three Top Fuel teams and four Funny Car teams. Top Fuel drivers are Khalid alBalooshi and Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing), Morgan Lucas and Brandon Bernstein (Morgan Lucas Racing), and Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing). Toyota's Funny Car roster includes Cruz Pedregon (Cruz Pedregon Racing), Tony Pedregon (Tony Pedregon Racing), Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria (Kalitta Motorsports), and Chad Head (Head Racing).
This is the second event sponsorship for Toyota in the NHRA Mello Yello Series. Toyota is also the title sponsor of the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.