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Might Oversights Have Been the Reason for Early Season Toyota Engine Failures?

By admin | April 27, 2013


By Richard Allen

If you haven’t heard that Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team were hammered earlier this week by NASCAR for an issue with their engine, then you might want to think about emerging from beneath that rock you’ve been hiding under. During an inspection of the winning car from the Sprint Cup race in Kansas at the NASCAR R&D Center, one of the connecting rods within the power plant weighed less than it was supposed to.

Toyota Racing Development(TRD), the motorsports development arm of Toyota that supplies JGR’s engines, quickly came out and assumed responsibility for the underweight component and declared that an oversight had occurred. To have one connecting rod that is a three grams less than the weight of the others offers no competitive advantage. For that matter, it’s amazing the engine was not thrown out of balance enough that a failure occured.

So one has to wonder if the error that showed itself after the Kansas race was the first made by TRD.

Remember back in the early season when Toyota’s suffered several engine issues? Kenseth and JGR teammate Kyle Busch dropped from the Daytona 500 at almost the same moment with blown engines. One week later, Busch and fellow JGR driver Denny Hamlin experienced engine troubles during practice at the Phoenix International Raceway.

In 2011, JGR announced that it would give up trying to build its own engines and switch to TRD because of reliability, power and cost reasons.

As the article linked above points out, TRD officials were quick to point out that these failures were unrelated. And they may well have been unrelated in terms of the specific pieces and parts that broke. However, the bigger issue for TRD could be that mistakes are being made throughout the entire engine building process.

The worst case scenario,and perhaps a blessing as well, for TRD is that the Kansas post-race issue revealed a bigger problem than faulty parts that led to previous failures. Carelessness led to a major penalty for one of TRD’s customers. Could it be that other signs of carelessness were never revealed because those engines failed before they made it to the end of the races they were meant for?



Topics: Articles |

9 Responses to “Might Oversights Have Been the Reason for Early Season Toyota Engine Failures?”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 28th, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Even though I was a Toyota Man, and thankfully, I fled that Camp after 2011, but, the fact is Toyota would be found to be the Laughingstock of NASCAR and even if Dodge came back to the Sport, they would beat Toyota hands down. Also, I would feel that TRD is trying to insert their engine presence in North Carolina instead of shipping motors from Southern California and it is not fun to find unpleasant and unwanted surprises as Toyota HQ in Tokyo is Blue in the Face JJ surged on them and worse, I doubt Gibbs or Waltrip will be taken seriously as Championship Contenders as Lax Oversight is pathetic.

  2. Russ Says:
    April 28th, 2013 at 5:27 am

    While mistakes are certainly common in manufacturing there is generally a reason. Many times it is either an incorrect measuring device or a form that wasnt updated. Of course there are cases of human error as well.
    But if it was as minor as claimed its hard to think that it would have caused engine failures in the past. Those failures are generally autopsied to find the cause.

  3. midasmicah Says:
    April 28th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    TRD recalled three Bowyer engines. They need to get their act together. And the JGR penalties are a joke. Keep it up nas$car and some of the other teams besides Hendricks racing might decide to form their own series. Joe Gibbs was not happy and challenged nas$car as to the penalties.

  4. ned Says:
    April 29th, 2013 at 4:19 am

    R.I.P. Nascrap !!

  5. Jesse Says:
    April 29th, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I didn’t watch the race and will not watch them from now on, I am glad a Chevrolet won, but Kenny(Toyota Man) said it best, they dominanted the Richmond race, they have all the races all year and will continue to throw out more money, the race was theirs, Bowers car was sponsered by them, look at the truck series most of the Toyota trucks the only sponser they have is the mfg. Keep building the most American made product and send all those profits to Japan.

  6. Sue Rarick Says:
    April 29th, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Sticking just to TRD. Whoever is running their engine shop needs to be fired. Either they are lax in running the operation or are hiring on the cheap.

    Years ago I was in a shop that did very complex detailed building. Our technicians made the equivilant of $60.00 hr. and worked at least 60 hours a week (That’s a little over $200,00 a year). You expected and got flawless work, yet we still did QA on their work. If TRD isn’t working under those same standards someone needs to take the heat.

  7. Offkilter Says:
    April 29th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Good article, Rich. I wonder if the trd concept of supplying all its cup teams with motors is more or less paid for by toyota corp so that individual team income monies can be used more toward chasis and body?

  8. Ken Says:
    April 29th, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Didn’t someone at TRD check any of the paperwork that came with the parts from the manufacturer? And didn’t anyone at JGR check to make sure the paperwork for the engine was complete?

    I have worked in Q.A. for 32-years. The company I work for does research and development work with extreme high pressure applications. Every pipe fitting, or material that is to be machined (plate, bar) has to have paper (ie, a mill test report) and has to be able to be traced through the system. And everything is further marked for full tracability. machined parts are given a very strict incoming inspection. If one part is overlooked, the results can be devastating!

    I am finding it hard to believe that the connecting rods were manufactured, and the inspection was so lax that out-of-spec parts were shipped out. And that someone at TRD didn’t check the parts themselves! Sue called it! Someone needs to lose their job over this.

  9. RacingFan Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 1:28 am

    I wonder if many fans realize the actual details of the penalty:

    The weight of connecting rods cannot be under 525 grams. (I believe that was mandated to prevent teams from experimenting with exotic metals to lighten the engine weight).

    One of Kenseth’s connecting rods was just under 523 grams, too light by just over 2 grams.

    A common envelope that you mail can be about 28 grams before you have to add extra postage.

    Here is a quote from Kenseth:

    The average weight of all the rods was well above the minimum — 2.5 (grams) above the minimum at least. There was one (connecting rod) in there that was way heavy. (end of Kenseth quote)

    I am not a racing engine expert, but I know enough about engines to say these facts indicate sloppiness, not cheating.

    One factor that has kept me interested in racing is the technical side. Unfortunately, articles that explain technical details have been sparse in NASCAR.
    I remember an article in the 1970s where the reporter was trying to get Leonard Wood to discuss his engines, especially how he found a way to make them breath while choked by a restrictor plate. Of course he had no luck. I am still waiting to find such an explanation of his success, but I guess it is still too soon to release those secrets.