|Kenseth: "There's nothing I can do."|
JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch both suffered from engine failures during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Two more engines came up lame during practice and qualifying the following week at Phoenix International Raceway, with one issue attributed publically to a mistake by an engine tuner.
After two weeks of calm, Clint Bowyer exited in a puff of smoke with just a handful of laps remaining at Auto Club Speedway. Then, at Kansas Speedway in April, NASCAR discovered an underweight connecting rod under the hood of Kenseth’s winning Toyota. The miscue triggered a distracting series of penalties and appeals, as well as an internal review by TRD that discovered two more illegal powerplants intended for Clint Bowyer’s Toyotas.
Two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch suffered a demoralizing, 38th-place finish due to a valve spring failure just past the halfway mark, and at Dover yesterday, Martin Truex Jr. and Kenseth both forfeited apparent Top-5 runs to engine issues, finishing 38th and 40th, respectively.
Simply stated, this is no way to run for a championship.
“(We) just broke something inside the motor,” said Busch after his Daytona exit. “There are pieces that are supposed to stay together, and they didn’t stay together. The guys at JGR built an awesome car… but we’ve got to have engines that last.”
|Truex exitted early Sunday|
Busch openly questioned JGR’s decision to farm out its engine-building duties to TRD, but after being openly critical of the program in the past, has kept his emotions to an admirable simmer in the face of continued problems. Others, however, are beginning to express unhappiness with the continuing failures.
"There's nothing I can do about it,” said Kenseth of yesterday’s engine malfunction. “I can't do anything from a preparation standpoint, (or) from a driving standpoint. I can't be any easier on it than I've been, so something is wrong. It's not driver induced, it's not too many miles in practice. It's nothing like that. Something is wrong with a part, and it broke."
Asked if there was a connection between Kenseth’s Dover exit and his own, Truex also pulled no punches.
“Obviously we’re both the same engine manufacturer,” said the Michael Waltrip Racing driver. “It’s pretty disappointing.”
Kenseth said team owner Joe Gibbs was "crushed" in the aftermath of his Dover withdrawal, adding, “He's got to pay for it all, and his car is sitting here."
Gibbs, meanwhile, expressed solidarity with his embattled engine builder, saying “Our guys are working full speed with Toyota (and) going after it hard. Anytime you have a motor problem, you’re always concerned trying to get to the bottom of it.
“We have to find out what this was,” said Gibbs, “and compare it to last week.”
Unfortunately, there have been too many points of comparison for TRD, JGR and MWR this season. While TRD’s engines have built winning horsepower, they have fallen far short on reliability, leading to too many disappointments and too many failures for a season that is not yet half complete.
In order to have a reasonable chance at the 2013 Sprint Cup championship, Toyota must diagnose the cause of those reliability issues and eliminate them, immediately.
“I feel like JGR has three of the strongest race teams and three of the best cars in the garage,” said Kenseth Sunday. “But you've got to finish these races to win and you've got to finish races to try to win championships.”
“Hopefully, we'll have it all figured out before September."