White: NASCAR can learn from F1 woes
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Lee White, president of Toyota Racing Development, said Toyota's departure from Formula One has no bearing on its NASCAR program, but he also said NASCAR should learn from F1's mistakes.
"Leaving Formula One was not an easy decision to make," White said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. "Obviously, it affects a lot of people, and a lot of those people are friends of ours, so we feel for them.
"But it should have no effect whatsoever on our NASCAR program, our NASCAR plans and our NASCAR future. We remain completely committed to NASCAR and NASCAR is completely committed to us."
[Toyota's withdrawal from F1] should have no effect whatsoever on our NASCAR program, our NASCAR plans and our NASCAR future. We remain completely committed to NASCAR and NASCAR is completely committed to us.” -- Toyota Racing Development
president Lee White
Toyota announced Wednesday that it was leaving F1. Reports estimated Toyota was spending in excess of $400 million a year to race in the series.
White was asked if some of those funds would move to the NASCAR program.
"The answer to that is no," White said. "The economy remains very challenging for the automotive industry. So we don't expect one penny of that reduction in cost would come here to benefit our NASCAR program."
Honda left F1 last year and Renault is considering whether it will stay in the series. White says everyone in racing, including NASCAR, can learn from F1's troubles.
"We saw NASCAR have a phenomenal period of growth," White said. "Now we're suffering through times where the fans in the stands are down. NASCAR is trying to finds a way to become relevant again. We are shoulder-to-shoulder with them to try to make it all work."
White's biggest concern at the moment is finding a way to compete with Hendrick Motorsports and its Chevrolets. Jimmie Johnson probably is headed for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title and Hendrick drivers hold down the top three spots in the standings.
"The Hendrick organization is a tier higher than everyone, including other teams from that manufacturer [Chevrolet]," White said. "So give Hendrick credit. They've done a fantastic job. We don't begrudge them that. We just want to work hard and find ways to beat them."
White understands the Hendrick domination has left a perception of a lack of competition, but he doesn't blame NASCAR.
"It's very hard to legislate competition," White said. "How can you legislate against Hendrick other than making their life miserable by checking their cars every week and taking them apart?
"Oh, wait. They did that and it didn't work. I give NASCAR credit for trying. They are doing the best they can. Some of these things just take time until someone figures out how to get as good as they are."
White also doesn't think the racing in NASCAR is as bad as some people believe.
"I'm not sure the races 10 years ago were better,'' he said. "You didn't have leader changes every lap. The difference is in the access the population has and the ability to comment on it with the Internet.
"People never had that before. They came to the race, they left and they were done. They didn't hear anything else until they read about it in a newspaper the next day."
So what would White do to improve competition?
"They probably just need to invert wherever Jimmie Johnson is and put him in the back," White said with a smirk. "He's that good."
White also said Toyota has no interest in returning to the IndyCar Series. Honda is the exclusive engine supplier of IndyCar, but White wouldn't mind seeing Honda make the move to NASCAR.
"The door's wide open," he said. "Bring it on. We welcome the competition if they decide to come. Maybe a little more competition would bring the Hendrick guys in line. We need all the help we can get."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com.