Moments after eking out a dramatic, come-from-behind victory at a Nascar race here earlier this month, Kyle Busch climbed out the window of his No. 18 Toyota and took a bow.
The crowd's reaction? A chorus of boos.
The slim, 23-year-old Nevada native acknowledges that many hard-core Nascar fans regard him as "cocky" and "arrogant." But, among the many race-goers who are fiercely proud of Nascar's American roots, his Japanese car is another strike against him.
"There are a lot of fans who don't necessarily like Toyota," Mr. Busch said in an interview.
Two years ago, Toyota Motor Corp. joined the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's top circuit, the Sprint Cup, hoping to win over the millions of Americans across the country who flock to racetracks or tune in to Nascar broadcasts.
Since then, its performance has attracted lots of notice. Mr. Busch's victory here at the Chicagoland Speedway was his seventh this season, and he tops the Sprint Cup driver standings. Newcomer Toyota also leads Ford Motor Co.'s Ford brand, General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet and Chrysler LLC's Dodge in the manufacturer standings.
Toyota's success on the track comes at an awkward time, however. Detroit's Big Three auto makers, preferred by many Nascar fans, are on their knees amid a brutal industry slump. And Toyota threatens to surpass GM as the top seller of autos in the U.S.
GM, Ford and Chrysler, meanwhile, are closing factories and laying off thousands of workers in the face of the worst market in decades. As part of cost-cutting moves announced last week, GM notified Bristol Motor Speedway that it won't renew its sponsorship of the Tennessee track.