NASCAR: Toyota reveals new 2015 Camry for Sprint Cup (PHOTOS)

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Toyota officials are hopeful that the manufacturer’s overall performance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will improve thanks to its new 2015 Camry, which was unveiled today at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The ’15 Camry certainly appears more aggressively styled than this year’s version, but time will tell if the car can help Toyota catch up to rivals Chevrolet and Ford.

The manufacturer has only been to Victory Lane twice this season with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Busch at Fontana, Hamlin at Talladega).

During the press conference, Andy Graves, vice president of chassis development for TRD (Toyota Racing Development), said the biggest challenge of creating the new machine was taking into account feedback from the Toyota driver stable.

“That’s the way the car handles in traffic, the transient conditions, the transient aspects of the vehicle on the track – and [then] try to understand how to measure and do a better job of refining that,” said Graves.

Graves also maintained that the wind tunnel numbers for the 2015 Camry remain the same.

“It’s the things that can’t be measured in the wind tunnel – that’s where we worked,” he added. “We’ve had a rough year in 2014, and we feel like this car is gonna put us back on track in 2015.”

Per Graves, design for the 2015 Camry first started in April of 2013 and the car’s first wind tunnel test took place in January of this year. He also confirmed that the car will receive a proper track test before the start of Daytona Speedweeks next February.

Here’s a few more pictures of the 2015 Camry for Sprint Cup, as well as a look at the 2015 Camry for the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994