Joe Gibbs Racing team plagued by issues with Toyota parts
DOVER, Del. -- A week after suffering his second engine failure of the season, the durability of the Toyota piece was still something of a sore spot for Kyle Busch.
“What’s explained to me each and every time I break … there’s no fix for it,” Busch said May 31 at Dover International Speedway. “It is what it is, sort of the luck of the draw.
“The bummer is that I keep picking the wrong straw. I hate that it keeps happening to us … but like I said, there’s nothing to fix it.”
Toyota Racing Development provides the engines for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.
Busch and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth suffered engine failures in the season-opening race at Daytona this year, while the teams of Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin made engine changes before the start of the following week’s race at Phoenix.
An engine-related issue felled MWR’s Clint Bowyer at Auto Club Speedway.
"The bummer is that I keep picking the wrong straw. I hate that it keeps happening to us."
-- Kyle Busch
But engine problems haven’t been limited to those in the Toyota camp. And the number of failures for the various groups providing engines isn’t noticeably higher than in previous years.
In addition to Busch, the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had engine problems during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
“I think there’s a label attributed to Toyota or TRD with engines,” Dave Wilson, senior vice president for TRD, said June 1. “But look across the entire garage. Other than Penske (Racing) who went two years without a single problem, it was a tough year for engine builders (last year). We had 12 failures last year. Hendrick (Motorsports) had 10, Earnhardt Childress Racing has 12, Roush Fenway had 11.”
Much of that, Wilson said, could be attributed to the repaving of several tracks, noting that drivers were able to “get back on the gas sooner, which means more RPM over extended periods.”
That Busch suffered engine failures in three consecutive races last season (at Dover, Pocono and Michigan) “always comes to the surface,” Wilson said.
“Any time any of our folks have an engine problem, we take that personally. That’s our measure of success. As an engine builder, I’ve always maintained that you don’t do it for pats on the back. The biggest compliment from a driver is when you don’t hear anything because that just means that the engine isn’t top of mind and they’re focused somewhere else.”
Hamlin said that when a teammate has had an engine-related problem, the worry begins.
“Usually when one (engine) goes, multiple go,” he said. Busch’s incident was thought to be an isolated incident, “a freak issue,” according to Hamlin.
“It doesn't really bother me honestly,” he said. “I think that TRD has really come a long way with their durability and obviously horsepower has been better this year, but we've got to continue to get better.”
Exacerbating Busch’s situation is the fact that the JGR driver spends a lot of time either leading or battling for the lead. Thus, when an issue arises that takes him out of contention, the setback is doubly painful.
Through this year’s first 12 points races, Busch is second in percentage of laps led and 29th in percentage of laps completed.
He ended the 2012 season second in percentage of laps led as well, and was 21st in percentage of laps completed.
The year before that? No. 1 in percentage of laps led. No. 27 in percentage of laps completed.
Run hard or go home. There seems to be little room for anything in between. So his frustration is “understandable,” Wilson said.
“I don’t think it’s just frustration about the engine. I looked at Kyle’s performance through our first 12 races. Six of them he’s either won or finished no worse than sixth. Very strong.
“The other six, he’s DNF’d or finished 23rd or worse. And of those six, two were engine failures.
“Kyle is so competitive. He hates not winning so much that … he has trouble dealing with that. Contrast Dale Jr. and Kyle after the (Coca-Cola) 600, just their overall demeanor. He hates it.
“It’s not a criticism, it’s just a measure of how intensely competitive that individual is.”
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