After Joe Gibbs Racing lost two entrants in last week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 due to engine failures, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch’s teams have opted to change their motors prior to the Subway 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Hamlin’s engine expired during second practice Saturday with 61 laps on it due to a defective spring. As to Busch, whose engine failed two laps after JGR teammate Matt Kenseth ended up on pit road on Lap 150 last Sunday at Daytona, the team detected something in the engine during the morning tune-up. Dave Wilson, senior vice president, Toyota Racing Development, described the No. 18 Camry’s issue as “human error.” Although it’s standard practice to change springs after happy hour practice, there was a problem with the assembly.
Busch, who qualified fourth, and Hamlin (eighth) will now start from the back of the field.
Wilson said the failures at Daytona were completely unrelated to this weekend’s issues and that he doesn’t anticipate any problems for Matt Kenseth or any of the Michael Waltrip Racing teams that TRD supplies engines for in the Sprint Cup Series.
Last week, TRD engineers detected a bearing issue with Kenseth’s car. Busch had a valve problem. Although the Nos. 26 and 56 finished the race, both were down a cylinder.
Wilson said it wasn’t fair to blame the suppliers for the failures. He says TRD accepts responsibility for the problems. However, given last year’s rash of breakdowns combined with the last few incidents, Wilson said it’s an “emotionally charged situation for the teams.”
”It’s the timing unfortunately leads you to believe that ‘Toyota is in trouble’,” Wilson said. “We have no cause for concern with any of our other cars. … There’s no bearing between JGR and MWR. We build exactly the same pieces for both of them. It’s a completely random coincidence. As to TRD, these are our responsibilities.
“Emotionally, this is hard and psychologically what we are dealing with now is an issue of confidence with our teams, drivers and crew chiefs because of the timing of these incidents. It’s easy to lump it together and say ‘Toyota has a problem’ … The bottom line is we’ve got to get some success under our belts and start the healing process.”