By admin | March 2, 2013
By Richard Allen
Toyotas have led every practice session and had Mark Martin set fast time during qualifying this weekend at the Phoenix International Speedway as NASCAR Sprint Cup teams prepare for Sunday’s running of the Subway Fresh Fit 500. However, there must be at least some concern in the auto manufacturer’s camp regarding the durability of their engines.
In the season opening Daytona 500, Toyota drivers spent a great deal of time running at the front of the field. But almost as if someone had flipped a switch, those front runners experienced engine troubles that eliminated from NASCAR’s biggest race. Matt Kenseth led the most laps of the race in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota before having his power plant expire while teammate Kyle Busch followed him to the garage just moments later.
After the JGR breakdowns, Michael Waltrip Racing driver Martin Truex, Jr. had to limp to the finish with a soured engine after challenging for the lead with 25 laps to go. Michael Waltrip himself also had an engine going bad at the checkered flag in Daytona.
Virtually all Toyota teams, including JGR and MWR, receive their engines from Toyota Racing Development(TRD) rather than build their own. Granted, there is a much different engine package for the one-mile track in Phoenix than on the 2.5 mile restrictor plate track in Daytona. However, engine woes on all sorts of tracks are not new for Toyota.
In 2012, there were multiple failures for the brand. Most notably, there was a stretch of three consecutive races at mid-season in which Busch was unable to finish due to engine trouble. He ultimately failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff as a result.
Once again, those issues have surfaced in Phoenix. Denny Hamlin’s JGR team was forced to change the power plant in their car after Saturday’s early practice session. That driver will be forced to start at the rear of the field due to the change despite posting the 8th fastest time in qualifying. According to SPEED’s Bob Dilner, there was an internal vibration in the No. 11 car’s engine that the team was unable to repair.
No doubt after the Hamlin issue, there is at least some concern in the Toyota, JGR and MWR camps going into Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
*Note* On Sunday morning, ESPN’s Marty Smith reported that Kyle Busch’s crew has also opted to change the TRD engine in their car.
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