Busch was a stable force in the finale, and proved to be the strongest as the race transitioned to the evening. Following the final round of green flag pit stops, he drove to the race win – and most importantly, his second Cup Series championship and the third for Toyota.
Busch wasn’t the only Toyota driver in the Championship 4 finale. For the first time in series history, three Toyota drivers competed at the Championship 4 as Busch was joined by his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
In his first season with JGR, Truex had an outstanding year with a series-leading seven victories, including his first career short track win at the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway in April. He also added wins at Dover International Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sonoma Raceway before the halfway point of the season. Truex started the Playoffs with back-to-back victories at Richmond Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway – scoring consecutive Cup Series wins for the first time in his career. He then clinched his spot in the Championship 4 for the third straight season with another short track win at Martinsville Speedway – also a career first for him – to open the Round of 8. Truex had a strong Camry and led over 100 laps in the finale, but after a pit miscue he was unable to track down his teammate for the race win and the championship.
Toyota’s – second Daytona 500 victory in his first race working with new crew chief Chris Gabehart. That win made Hamlin the first driver locked into the Playoffs. He added a second win at Texas Motor Speedway, but really turned it on in the second half of the season when he was victorious at Pocono Raceway and at the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway as he scored the victory from the pole. Hamlin looked like the driver to beat heading into the Playoffs. He made it through the early rounds with ease, while adding his fifth win of the season at Kansas Speedway in October. However, after an accident at Texas Motor Speedway, he went into the penultimate event at ISM Raceway in a must win situation to move on to the Championship 4.
Hamlin would do just that – leading nearly half the laps to move to the Championship 4 for the first time since 2014. Homestead did not produce the result that Hamlin and his team were looking for, but it was still a solid season with six wins.
The remaining two 2019 full-time Toyota drivers – Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto – also had big seasons.
In his third full-time season, Jones added a major victory to his career stats as he won the Labor Day classic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway to clinch his spot in the Playoffs. He was eliminated in the first round after multiple incidents – not of his making – would end his playoff run early. However, Jones established a new career-high in top-five finishes and looks for even more success in 2020 behind the wheel of the No. 20 Camry.
DiBenedetto and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) had a career-best season in LFR’s first season with Toyota. DiBenedetto established new career-bests in top fives, top 10s, laps led, average finishing position and final points finish. DiBenedetto had several big moments including his first career top-five finish at Sonoma Raceway in June, and a near victory at the Bristol night race in August, when he was passed by Hamlin for the lead with less than 15 laps to go.
In total, Toyota scored a new season-best 19 victories. Camry drivers added 64 top-five finishes and 99 top-10s, while scoring 27 stage wins. Those stats delivered Toyota its third manufacturer’s championship in the past four years.
The 2019 season proved to be a milestone year for Toyota and 2020 looks to be another promising season.