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Confiscated JGR oil pans have MIS garage buzzing

June 17, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Three go-or-go-home drivers pace final practice while others deal with issues

Things failed to pan out for Joey Logano and Joe Gibbs Racing on Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

After the oil pans for Logano and his JGR teammates -- Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin -- were confiscated during opening day inspection by NASCAR officials after it was determined the oil pans hadn't been submitted for prior approval, things went from bad to worse for the No. 20 team.

More trouble for Logano


After having the oil pan confiscated, Joey Logano blows a motor in final practice.

Just three laps into final practice, Logano's No. 20 Toyota began showing smoke, forcing him to slow on the track and head for the garage. The preliminary diagnosis? Possibly an engine bearing issue, forcing the crew to remove the engine for the second time in one day, this time to replace the Toyota powerplant.

Logano didn't get another chance to drive the car he'll start from the tail end of the field in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400, but he did go out in Hamlin's No. 11 to get a feel for what he might experience Sunday.

Things were almost as bad a few stalls down from where Logano's engine swap was under way. Crewmen were busy cutting away damage from the left rear bumper of Jeff Burton's No. 31 Chevrolet after he and David Ragan made contact in Turn 4 midway through the session.

"We just got really loose, and got loose in front of him," Burton said about the incident, which also did slight damage to the right front of Ragan's No. 6 Ford. "He didn't see me loose. I think he had on fairly new tires and was coming pretty quick. He didn't get checked up.

"It's typical for our year. Anything that can go wrong, it pretty much will right now."

Ragan said he was surprised at how quickly he caught Burton and tried everything he could do to minimize the damage.

"I wasn't expecting for him to slow down that much," Ragan said. "There were two or three car-lengths between us and before I knew it, I was right on him. I was so glad that Jeff held onto it and it didn't tear up anything."

After repairs, both cars returned to the track before the end of the practice.

With most teams working on race setups, the top three speeds in final practice were set by "go or go home" cars. David Stremme's lap of 185.428 mph was fastest of the session, followed by J.J. Yeley and Travis Kvapil. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.

But the story of the day continued to revolve around the confiscated oil pans. Were the Gibbs teams attempting to gain some sort of competitive advantage with a new oil pan design, or was it just a matter of not following standard procedures?

The oil pans on all three cars were switched out before Friday's first practice, Cup Series director John Darby said, and officials will meet early next week to discuss whether any additional penalties will be assessed.

Hamlin tried to explain it from a Gibbs point of view.

"We continue to evolve our cars and things like that through the course of a season," Hamlin said. "All teams do. And usually when you have something new -- a new part -- sometimes you submit it and sometimes you don't and I feel like this is probably one of the parts NASCAR wants you to submit.

"That's probably the biggest issue they had with it. It's like if you showed up at the prom with a different date."

Like many in the garage area, Kurt Busch was more than curious at what was sitting on a countertop in the NASCAR hauler.

"It's always fun to peek in and see what that is," Busch said. "They put a tag on it from what it came from and you analyze it and look at it. They leave it there for other teams to look at, feel it, touch it, and see what they've got going on. I saw the crossmember cut into the oil pan. I saw how heavy it was.

"... When you have an unapproved part like that, whether they submitted it or they didn't, it's just open for everybody to see. And if you weren't working on that internally, now we have an opportunity to do that."