News & Media

Engine issues plagued teams at Michigan

June 18, 2012, Joe Menzer,

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Push for more horsepower may have harmed JGR and Toyota most of all

Unlike a week earlier when Joey Logano drove to Victory Lane in Pocono, all hopes for Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday went up in flames at Michigan International Speedway.

Well, at least Denny Hamlin's car did. He spun and broke a fuel line in his No. 11 Toyota, ending his day literally in a ball of fire on Lap 132 of the 200-lap Quicken Loans 400. He was credited with a 34th-place finish.

"We've been beating on them for more horsepower, more horsepower, more horsepower. Everyone in this garage knows that if you start pushing for more horsepower, you start risking reliability."


That was better than Logano, who got caught up in a wreck with David Gilliland and Kasey Kahne that ended his day only seven laps earlier. He finished 35th in his No. 20 Toyota.

That left Kyle Busch to carry the JGR banner for the rest of the afternoon at the 2-mile oval. Unfortunately, he already had spent considerable time in the Sprint Cup garage undergoing extensive repairs to his No. 18 Toyota after encountering engine problems and slapping the outside wall.

By the time Busch returned to the track, he was 40 laps behind the leaders. It was all he could do to finish 32nd, just two spots ahead of where he started the day in the first place.

"It was a rough day for Joe Gibbs Racing," said Dave Rogers, Busch's crew chief. "It was unfortunate because the guys back at the shop are working really hard, trying to give us fast race cars. Joey got the win last week, and I thought all the Gibbs cars were fast [Sunday].

"I was really excited about our performance. Kyle started 34th because I didn't tighten the car up enough for him in qualifying. He drove up into the top 10, and we just had a motor failure."

Busch was as high as sixth before he lost a cylinder. Rogers said he blamed himself in part for what was the third motor failure in as many weeks for the hard-luck Busch, who is 12th in the points standings.

"Everyone at Toyota has been working really hard, but we've been beating on them for more horsepower, more horsepower, more horsepower. Everyone in this garage knows that if you start pushing for more horsepower, you start risking reliability," Rogers said. "I in particular have been leaning on them really hard to help us go fast. They're working on it and they're doing a great job, but we've got a small hiccup here with reliability. Those guys are relentless, intelligent, and they're going to work through this and we'll be fine."

Both JGR and Michael Waltrip Racing get their Toyota engines from Toyota Racing Development, and Busch was not alone in experiencing motor problems Sunday. Mark Martin, who drove the No. 55 Toyota for MWR, had his engine fail, too, but not until Lap 195.

Rogers said he did not think the extra practice added by NASCAR after a late switch to new left-side tires had anything to do with Busch's engine problems. Some crew chiefs had speculated prior to the race that the extra laps added to their engines during the practice might cause trouble for them during the 400-mile race.

"Well, it's hard to say. The part that failed is very obvious. I don't want to talk about it; I'll let TRD work on it," Rogers said. "But lots of times in motors, when things fail, everything breaks and it's kind of hard to find out where everything started. Kyle shut the car off really quick and it actually preserved some of the witness marks on the failed part. So I think the guys at TRD will be able to figure it out.

"Obviously when you're trying to go really fast, you're really leaning on the motor hard. So maybe the extra practice time had something to do with it. Maybe. But we failed early enough in the race where you can't really go ahead and blame it on that final practice."

Rogers also said that while he's concerned about the continuing motor issues, he has no doubts that TRD and his own JGR race team will overcome the challenges they face in the coming weeks as Busch attempts to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Busch currently has one win and remains in position for one of the two Chase wild-card berths.

"I'm really proud of this race team. They work really hard. I don't think there's another race team in NASCAR that can outwork them," Rogers said. "We still got the thing pieced back together and made some laps. These guys never quit. If you want to have a shot at the big prize at the end, that's what you've got to do. You've got to keep fighting through no matter how gloomy your day looks."