Toyota woes at 'Tricky Triangle'
A decision by Toyota and its top race teams to slightly detune their NASCAR Sprint Cup race engines in the wake of a disastrous series of recent mechanical failures did not produce the desired results Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Not even close.
Toyota’s racing division, TRD, USA, builds the engines for Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing, each of whom had a car that suffered valvetrain failure last week at Dover International Speedway. And earlier this week, TRD’s longtime boss, Lee White, resigned effective immediately, citing unspecified family health issues.
In the wake of that drama, the Toyota teams rolled into the 2.5-mile Pocono track throttled back in the horsepower department in an effort to improve reliability. It didn’t turn out as well as they hoped.
Three-time 2013 race winner Matt Kenseth, although officially listed as running at the finish, said his powerplant broke late in the race and he limped home 25th in his JGR entry.
And for the first time all season, no Toyotas finished in the top five.
Worse yet, after leading a whopping 57 percent of the laps run in the first 13 races of the year, Toyotas failed to lead even a single lap at Pocono — this at a race where last year, Toyotas finished first, second, fifth and sixth.
This time around, the highest finishing Toyota belongs to Kyle Busch of JGR, who wound up sixth, two positions ahead of teammate and four-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin made no bones about the lack of power in his car.
“Any horsepower change is going to be a tough thing to overcome, especially this week and next week (are) our two horsepower racetracks,” said Hamlin, referring to Pocono and Michigan International Speedway.
As for the fix, it will take time.
“We just have to be patient,” said Hamlin. “We can bitch and moan about it and yell about it, but the bottom line is they (TRD) are going to give us something that they feel can make it to the end of the race. Until we get the horsepower back, we’re just going to have to deal with it and do the best we can.”
Kenseth was philosophical afterwards.
“Once it broke, then I could tell,” said Kenseth. “But before that, it was fine.”
The Michael Waltrip Racing squad had it even worse: Its best result came from Clint Bowyer, who finished 15th. “Tough day at the office,” Bowyer Tweeted after the race. “Got a little work to do at the ole ¿@MWRteam camp. We'll get it back!!!”