Joe Gibbs celebrates with Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on March 31,

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Yet another NASCAR Cup race was won Saturday night by the team owned by Joe Gibbs, the former coach who led the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowl titles. Martin Truex Jr. posted his first victory of the season, but Joe Gibbs Racing has already won six of nine races.

Three of his drivers are among the top six in the NASCAR standings, with three victories for Kyle Busch, two for Denny Hamlin and one for Truex. The Redskins’ unglamorous but efficient offensive line was known as the “Hogs” under Gibbs — and now Gibbs’ race team is hogging Victory Lane celebrations.  

Gibbs, 78, still known as “Coach,” is a devout Christian and a sympathetic figure who lost his 49-year-old son, J.D., the co-founder of the race team, to a degenerative neurological disease in January. Gibbs modestly said late Saturday of his team’s hot run, “You know the odds are this ain’t going to keep happening.”

That was awfully nice of him to say, but don’t expect his cars to fade for a while. With three race victories this year, Roger Penske is the only other owner to have won a Cup race. There has never been only two owners with Cup victories through a season’s first nine races. NASCAR used to love pitching its parity, but there is not much to be found.

And the NASCAR old-timers who remain probably could live with Gibbs’s success were it not for for one factor: His drivers are in Toyota Camrys.

Toyota, the Japanese automaker, has a significant manufacturing presence in the U.S., employing tens of thousands at several plants, and has been involved at NASCAR’s top level since 2007. Toyota stumbled in its first Cup season, but then added Gibbs, and it took off.

Busch won the first Cup title for Toyota in 2015, with Truex winning for the now-defunct Barney Visser Racing team in 2017. Toyota won its first Manufacturers Trophy in 2016 after Chevrolet had won the previous 13 titles. Now Toyota has won five of the last six Cup races.

It would seem as if Toyota’s stout investment in NASCAR has been one of the best possible recent developments for stock-car racing, a sport beset by declining TV ratings and attendance. Toyota has used NASCAR heavily to market its cars, which are, like the “Hogs,” unglamorous but efficient.

(I write that because I have owned two Toyotas in the last 24 years, first a Camry, then a Corolla, and have piled up a total of more than 300,000 miles combined, virtually trouble-free. Perhaps I could have gotten the same result from a Ford or a Chevrolet, but I’m sold on Toyota. End testimonial.)

The Toyota issue becomes magnified because the Chevrolet Camaro is 0 for 9 in NASCAR Cup racing this year after a debut season in which it won just four of 36 races, three by the same driver, Chase Elliott. Chevy has five top-five finishes this year, compared with 17 for Toyota.

And yet, it takes very little digging to find out that some stock-car fans, not all, are still upset that NASCAR “let in” Toyota — as if NASCAR should have always been a pure American racing series.

Well, it never was. Big Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, staged international races where “Grand National cars take on the speedy sports cars” from MG as late as 1963. Al Keller won a road-course race at the airport in Linden, N.J., in a Jaguar in 1954.

It has been widely reported that Nissan is interested in jumping into NASCAR racing, with a return by Dodge, the American manufacturer who left NASCAR in 2012. Although NASCAR says such additions would not be made until at least 2021, the more the merrier.

Until then, Ford and Chevy will keep trying to catch Gibbs and his Toyotas. NASCAR is taking off this weekend for Easter, but three-quarters of the season remains.

Meanwhile, another driver for Gibbs, the 24-year-old Christopher Bell, has won two races and has led nearly twice as many laps as any other driver in the second-tier Xfinity Series. Bell seems to be ready to jump to the top level, as if Gibbs needs another threat.

Despite what Coach might say, Toyota ain’t going away.

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