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Next to drag racing, the biggest participant lines could be found trackside, waiting to take two hot laps in the passenger seat with current Toyota sponsored NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers Jack Sprague and Mike Skinner. Skinner was the first ever NCTS champ back in 1995 and he’s currently leading this year’s standings with three wins.
Sprague and Skinner drove identical fire engine red Infineon Raceway Toyota Tundra D-Cab Pace Trucks, modified with 22-inch Toyota Racing Design (TRD) rims, high performance 285/45R22 Toyo Proxes S/T rubber, TRD dual exhausts, 16-inch TRD front-brakes, and a non-Toyota suspension kit. The twin 5500-lb pickups, and their naturally aspirated stock 5.7-liter i-Force V8s, hit speeds up to 110-mph on Infineon’s challenging and technical racetrack while the two professional racers played aggressively fun cat and mouse games around every turn and straightaway on the course.
Near continuous hard braking around the track's tight corners and S-curves raised temperatures on the Tundras’ 13.6-inch stock rear brakes some 200 degrees-F more than the front TRD calipers - their larger surface area keeping them cooler while slowing these behemoth racers. Every ten runs or so the trucks were brought in for pits stops to swap tires and change fluids before they were sent back to the track for additional go-rounds.
With the exception of the suspension kit – third-party because TRD is still testing the final spring, shock, and stabilizer package for the Tundra – all Pace Truck components can be purchased and installed today at the Toyota dealer where a new Tundra is bought.
For enthusiasts looking to modify more than just suspension and exhaust components, it’s expected that TRD will sell superchargers for all three Tundra motors by the end of 2007.
According to Karey Keenan, Toyota’s Accessory Sales Manager who was on hand at the event, “TRD is shooting for the end of the year to deliver the supercharger for the 5.7-liter V8, while it undergoes final emissions testing. The other two engines (4.0-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8) should have superchargers available earlier in the year.”
Keenan also says, “These engines are for true enthusiasts. They’re going to cost around three to four-thousand dollars.” But for that price, on the 5.7-liter V8, enthusiasts can expect to see horsepower and torque figures move up into the mid-400s, and you can keep your Tundra’s entire powertrain warranty if the TRD blowers are dealer-installed. Third-party or self-installed superchargers will come with either a 12-month / 12K-mile warranty or until the standard 60-month / 60K-mile powertrain warranty expires, whichever is less.
So, did the Tundra Prove It! tour actually prove it for potential buyers? It depends.
One attendee we spoke with told us that he had already sold his 2003 Ford F-250 Super Duty 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel three-quarter ton truck and was ready to buy the new half-ton Tundra with the 5.7-liter gas engine as soon as he could figure out which color he liked best at the event. He told us that the Tundra could pull the same boat he used his Ford pickup to tow, but it was like a sports car when it wasn’t towing anything.
Another attendee and his father said the Tundra was “pretty cool” but that they were going to wait to buy until they could be sure of its long term durability.
And what about Travis Barker, Blink-182’s former drummer, who showed up on the sly at the event without anyone from Toyota recognizing him? The punk rocker and avowed Cadillac enthusiast - he even sports a crested wreath logo tattoo on his chest - was a big attraction at the 2006 North American International Auto Show when he beat the skins on the Cadillac stand to help introduce the 2007 Escalade. Barker was keeping opinions to himself but he wore a smile as he exited the door of the Tundra Pace Truck he’d just been hammered around the track in.
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