By admin | August 19, 2012
By Richard Allen
In the play â€˜Richard IIIâ€™ by William Shakespeare, King Richard III utters the memorable line, â€œA horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horseâ€ as he is about to lose his kingdom and meet his doom. Perhaps Rick Hendrick may feel like shouting, â€œA valve spring, a valve spring, my kingdom for a valve springâ€ after this just concluded NASCAR weekend.
Well, maybe thatâ€™s a little too dramatic. OK, itâ€™s a lot too dramatic. (But it sounded somewhat appropriate when the idea struck me.) However, Hendrick Motorsports no doubt has some long hours ahead of it in the coming week as they attempt to get to the bottom of a problem that reared its head and cost the team a win.
Just when it looked like HMS was about to establish full control of the 2012 Sprint Cup season, a batch of flawed valve springs has thrown a wrench into the equation. Sundayâ€™s race at the Michigan International Speedway showed that the sportâ€™s most powerful organization is just as vulnerable as any when it comes to reliance on machinery filled with hundreds of moving parts.
In all, HMS lost no less than four of its engines and the most often blamed parts were valve springs.
Tony Stewart, whose Stewart-Haas Racing team receives their power plants from HMS, suffered an engine problem very early in the Pure Michigan 400 and was relegated to riding around the two-mile track at a greatly reduced speed until he was finally made to park prior to the scheduled ending. He wound up a disappointing 32nd after completing only 109 laps.
HMS driver Jeff Gordon felt the sting of the bad valve spring as well when his engine went sour and relegated him to a finish of 28th after turning only 167 laps.
But most devastating of all had to be the engine failure of Jimmie Johnson. The five time champion had entered the race with the newly assumed points lead and had driven from the rear of the field to the front. It looked as if he was about to firmly grasp control of the Sprint Cup season and set himself up for additional bonus points in the Chase for the Championship. However, with less than ten laps remaining the #48 Chevrolet pulled to the bottom of the track and gave up the ghost.
Johnson had been forced to start from the rear because of an engine change after a separate failure in practice. He finished 27th on a day in which victory looked certain.
Last week, it seemed as if HMS would enter NASCARâ€™s ten race playoff with plenty of momentum on their side. Johnson looked as if he had regained the form that had won him five consecutive titles. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had spent time at the top of the standings and continues to run well. And more, Gordon and Kasey Kahne looked as if they might be able to salvage what had at one time for each looked like disappointing seasons by earning wildcard entries into the Chase. Now, there has to be at least some doubt about the reliability of the engines that were to power that momentum.
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