Toyota Racing Development, after all, has more than 200 engineers and engine builders at its sprawling race headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif. This translates into more manpower and brainpower than the racing operations at Ford, Chevy and Dodge have—combined. "We learned that Toyota was going to make us a lot stronger in the long run if we made the switch," says J.D. Gibbs. "Once we laid everything out to our drivers, everyone got on board real fast."
So last October, Gibbs signed a long-term contract with Toyota—a marriage that has reshaped the NASCAR landscape. J.D. Gibbs may have gotten some angry e-mails from fans who claim that JGR has sold its racing soul by joining forces with a foreign company, but the move is already paying big dividends. The Toyota motors were the talk of Daytona; for the first time the fleet of Camrys packed more horsepower than the Hendrick Chevys. "We had one of the fastest cars, both Kyle and I," said Stewart after he finished third on Sunday and Kyle Busch fourth. "When we could get a run they absolutely flew, and that's all horsepower right there.... The last lap just didn't work out."
But it did for Newman. When he reached Victory Lane, Newman hopped out of his blue-and-white Alltell Dodge and gave Penske the high five he'd been waiting 25 years to receive. The owner had already been visited in the winner's circle by Rick Hendrick, who presented Penske with a gift: a tan Hendrick Motorsports baseball cap. Penske put it on, but he didn't really need it, because on this night he finally had something in common with those legends named Allison, Andretti and Petty: He was a Daytona 500 winner.