Toyota Dazzles on the NASCAR Track in Texas

NASCAR and Toyota are a perfect combination in Austin at the Texas Grand Prix; if you're a first time race VIP attendee, you are in for a special experience.

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Kristin Shaw took her mom and dad to their first NASCAR race, and they had a blast! Photo: Kristin Shaw

If You Haven’t Been to a NASCAR Race, You Need to Go

The NASCAR Cup Series first launched at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, for the inaugural EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix in 2021. Its fourth year in, NASCAR plus Texas is still a heady combination and getting better all the time. Its latest NASCAR event took place last Sunday, and I got to bring two very special guests to the race with me: my mom and dad. 

Toyota Motorsports communications manager Sam Mahoney met us at the circuit and guided us through the gauntlet of badge-checking and wristband-getting and made sure we all had a great time. Neither Mom nor Dad had ever attended a NASCAR race before this, and it was an adventure. Honestly, they couldn’t stop smiling.

Related: 10 Things Your Family Will Love About The NASCAR Hall of Fame

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Christopher Bell’s Toyota Camry XSE racecar. Photo: Kristin Shaw

NASCAR Still Thrills

I divested myself of any preconceived notions about NASCAR events and its fans several years ago when I attended my first race with Lexus at the Sonoma Raceway. It was there that I met Hailie Deegan, a member of racing royalty and now a racing star. I also met Jill Gregory, then the head of NASCAR marketing and later the general manager and executive vice president of the Sonoma Raceway itself. 

This time, I joined Toyota for a Sunday full of fast-paced entertainment. While the general viewership of NASCAR has been trending down lately, it’s far from going away any time soon. As automakers like Toyota continue to compete and innovate with new features and engineering, there’s always opportunity for growth.

In fact, Toyota is killing it on the track as the only manufacturer competing in NASCAR with three different vehicles across the three national series. One is the Camry (NASCAR Cup Series, which is the one I watched in Austin), the GR Supra (NASCAR Xfinity Series) and the Tundra TRD Pro (NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series). Over the last 17 years, Toyota has notched 180 wins and three championships in the NASCAR Cup Series, 228 wins and nine Truck Series championships, and four titles in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Very impressive.

If you’re wondering how the humble Camry sedan could possibly be a rowdy track monster, you’re not alone – I wondered the same thing. Equipped with a powerful V8 engine and special manual transmission, the NASCAR version of the Camry looks familiar, but it acts very differently. Kind of like NFL player Travis Kelce on the football field versus his gentle-giant demeanor around his girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

Related: 2025 Toyota Camry: More Style and Safety (and No More V6)

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Kristin and her parents met Toyota driver Christopher Bell before the race. Photo: Kristin Shaw

We Met Toyota Driver Christopher Bell

In the Toyota suite, we met Christopher Bell, who competes in the number 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. The Oklahoma native smiled throughout the meet and greet, patiently taking photos with every family who approached him after a brief question-and-answer session. He may have a baby face, but the 29-year-old has been married to his longtime girlfriend, Morgan Kemenah, since 2020 and has earned an impressive number of wins so far.

Christopher is known to be a doting husband. During our meetup, he mentioned that his wife travels with him and made it clear that she is an important part of his life. She understands the business of racing as the daughter of sprint car crew chief Brian Kemanah and niece of sprint car driver Chad Kemenah.

After meeting Christopher, my parents and I headed to the garage, where we got to see the car before it went out on the track. Then, we walked along pit road to watch the crews and drivers get ready to rumble. Sam led us to our seats for the start of the race, which was a rare treat – sitting behind the crew chief and an array of screens right there behind the pit crews. We donned headphones connected to a radio so we could hear the conversation between the drivers and crew.

Of course, we were cheering for Christopher Bell and watched intently.

Related: Watching Your First IndyCar Race? A Newbie Fan And An Expert Tell You Six Things You Need To Know

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Pit crews get ready for their driver to arrive, and stops run about 10 seconds. It’s pretty incredible. Photo: Kristin Shaw

The NASCAR Pit Crews Are Unreal

One of the coolest things to watch at a NASCAR race is the pit crew in action during a tire change and fuel stop. While street cars have five lug nuts holding the wheel in place, NextGen NASCAR cars changed to a single, powerful lug nut in 2021.

Every time a car stopped in one of the pits near us, we craned our necks to gawk at the incredible athleticism of the crews tasked with changing four tires and fueling up the car in about 10 seconds. We could tell when the crews were ramping up for a stop because hoods would go up, helmets would go on, and fire aprons would be donned. Some bounced on their heels, ready to rip as soon as the car pulled up.

The pace is dizzying and amazing, as these highly trained people used high-powered tools to ensure their driver could get back on the track as quickly as possible.

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In the suites at COTA, a silhouette of the track adorns the doors. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Pro Tip: Go VIP, if You Can

NASCAR is a singularly exciting experience. You can absolutely buy inexpensive seats on the lawn or in the bleachers, and the tracks do a great job providing family fun, food, and activities for everyone. But if you can swing it, splurge for a spot in one of the VIP suites, which cost upwards of $900 at COTA. That includes food, meet and greets like the one we had with Christopher, and access to some of the best seats in the house.

In the end, Christopher won the first stage and placed second in the championship. Watching my parents cheer for him was awesome for me; I have a grateful heart that I could do something special for the people who raised me to love cars. Thanks to Toyota, we got to create family memories I’ll never forget.

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View of the Circuit of the Americas from the 25-story-high tower. Photo: Kristin Shaw

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Writer. Car fanatic. Mom. Kristin is the co-owner of auto review site Drive Mode Show and a nationally-published writer... More about Kristin Shaw