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Michael L. Levitt

Revival of the fittest: Toyota Supra coming to NASCAR Xfinity Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Toyota plans to bring the iconic Supra nameplate back in a big way in 2019, announcing Thursday that the model will compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series starting next season.

Toyota unveiled the dynamic race car prototype Thursday night in the Toyota Injector at Daytona International Speedway, where it will debut in the Xfinity season opener next February. The road-going Supra will hit showrooms starting with the 2019 model year, returning to production for the first time in 17 years.

PHOTOS: New Supra from all angles

The Supra replaces the venerable Camry, which will continue as the automaker’s vehicle of choice in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Supra will soon go head-to-head against its performance-car brethren in Chevrolet’s Camaro SS and Ford’s Mustang.

A sports-car version of the new Supra debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Thursday’s unveiling of the stock-car racing edition stands to fuel the anticipation for the street-legal production car, which is still awaiting its release date.

“Before there was even any discussion about coming to the race track … there’s been rumors for years about when is Supra going to come back to the streets as a production car,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president of Toyota Division Marketing. ” I think there’s Supra fan clubs all over, especially in California, West Coast. But the reaction has been extremely positive.

“People are really excited and people are asking for what’s next and when are they going to get a chance to see the production car. We think this is a great place to debut this vehicle as it comes back into the mix, and NASCAR has really served us well from a Camry perspective. ”

VIDEO: Busch details his excitement

The NASCAR rendition of the Supra is built with design help from Calty Design Research — a longtime Toyota design studio — to conform to stock-car specifications. A distinctive, swoopy nose helps give the car its identity.

The Xfinity Supra marks the sixth race car produced by Toyota Racing Development in collaboration with Calty in the last six years. The manufacturer indicated in a news release that the two groups began work on the NASCAR Supra project last year.

Two drivers prominently involved in the Toyota racing program attended the unveiling — 2015 Monster Energy Series champ Kyle Busch and Xfinity Series regular Christopher Bell. Busch scored the first-ever premier series win for the automaker in 2008, and Bell registered a first of his own recently, indicating that he was the first driver to make laps in the prototype.

The competition is now on for another first — the first driver to bring the Supra name to Victory Lane. David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, suggested sweetening the pot, adding a “bounty” or other incentive for the first Xfinity winner with the new model.

“I don’t need any more motivation, but obviously more motivation is cool,” said Bell, who sits fourth in the Xfinity Series points. “I think if you take any of us race car drivers to any rental go-kart track racing for lots of money, we’re still going to go out there and give it our all, right? Any more bounty that they add is going to make it more special, that’s for sure.”