Posted: Thursday May 4, 2006 1:44PM; Updated: Thursday May 4, 2006 3:55PM
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"We go to the races, we see what happens," he said. "We offer opinions to our team partners and they ask our opinion. I've never spoken to Ricky Rudd about driving for Toyota. Nobody at Toyota ever has. Marty Gaunt [Red Bull general manager] talked to him and maybe that's the confusion, because Red Bull is a Toyota team. But it would be Red Bull hiring him, not Toyota."
Toyota has no plans to expand its team lineup beyond the three -- Waltrip, Red Bull and Bill Davis Racing -- it announced in January. Gordon's team, whose contract with Chevrolet ends following this season, is not under consideration.
"We have three teams and we've got our hands full trying to build enough pieces for them," White said. "We're not interested in expanding. Those teams want and expect to run two cars each. We might be able to do a seventh car for one of them if they came to us and said, 'We've got a sponsor that we want to run,' but that would be the absolute limit."
Toyota Racing Development, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company that operates the racing programs in the U.S., will add up to 20 positions over the next year to meet the demands of expanding into Cup. White promises TRD will not hire people already with employment contracts, and will urge the three teams to operate in the same manner. He says reports of Toyota stealing employees from Ganassi or Penske are simply not true.
Perhaps, White says, other teams are using the threat of Toyota's spending in order to receive additional support from their current manufacturers. "They play off us with their manufacturers," he explained. "When we got into trucks, you wouldn't believe the teams that called us looking for deals. Then they use it as leverage with their current manufacturer."
Toyota expects to track test its Cup car in mid-to-late June at Atlanta. It also has to build a new Tundra for the '07 Truck series and the Car of Tomorrow for next year.
Waltrip has committed to running two cars in the Busch Series and has hired David Reutimann to drive one of them. Toyota would like to have up to six cars in Busch. Toyota is also committed to staying in the Truck series.
Cup is, of course, at the top of the priority list. Toyota's entrance into it has put additional pressure on an already tight driver market that features Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett and Casey Mears. Toyota might be tempted. But would it be willing to up the ante to gain the services of any or all of them?
Perhaps -- but that's not the plan. At least not right now.