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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hendrick engine woes need to be addressed before Chase; MWR falls short; Gibbs teams struggle

Oakland Press photo/MATT MYFTIU
Above: Joey Logano's car is shown in the MIS garage. Logano finished 31st after an early wreck. This could be his last race for the Gibbs team at MIS.

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It was a tough day for Hendrick Motorsports, especially in the engine department. Jimmie had the race in the bag and blew up.

Jeff Gordon got all snippy with Dale Jr. on the radio, and then had his own engine woes. Tony Stewart uses Hendrick engines and also had issues.

Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 3rd and 4th, but with the Chase coming up these engine woes have to be a concern for the team. I predict an early Monday morning meeting in the Hendrick engine department that won’t be very happy-feely.

Maybe it’s just Michigan, but they need to figure some things out before the Chase if they want to contend for the title. This kind of thing can’t happen in the Chase, period. And if it keeps happening, Jeff Gordon won’t even make the Chase.

Stewart did not seem too concerned about the engine issues.

“I’m not sure. It’s something that is not a norm for sure. I appreciate everybody at the Hendrick engine department. We had three different engine tuners down there trying to get it fixed for us. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. It’s uncommon to have a problem like this there. It’s not something I’m concerned about and having problems in the future with it’s just a bad day and like I said we have the best engine department in the world in my opinion. Definitely in this series they did everything they could do.”

Jeff Gordon said the whole weekend was a bust for him.

“It’s a valve spring. I think that’s the same thing that happened to the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) earlier. It’s something that when you come to Michigan and you turn these kinds of sustained rpm’s on this fast of a track, it’s always of concern here. And that bit us. I’ll tell you, we’ve been having a rough weekend. We’re not handling the way we were hoping to. Track position is so important that all we had to do was get track position and we still could have come out of here with a good finish and even won the race. … It’s the kind of year we’ve been having. We’ll just go on to Bristol.”

Michael Waltrip Racing dominates first half, then falls off ; rough day for Gibbs teams

Mimicking what has happened in recent races with other teams --  like Roush Racing this past June –
MWR cars dominated the first half (first Mark Martin, then Bowyer and Truex after Martin’s scary wreck),
but didn’t have anything left to compete in the end.
Bowyer finished 7th, and Truex was 10th at the end of the race. Decent, but not what they wanted.
Beyond them, the Toyotas were terrible today. Joe Gibbs Racing’s woes continued as Hamlin came in 11th,
Busch 13th and Logano way way back in 31st after wrecking.
That’s far from the solid runs Hamlin and Busch have had in recent years at MIS.

Getting back to MWR, Martin led 54 laps, Bowyer led 18, and Truex led 12.

Bowyer said that overall, he was pretty happy with his performance.

"It was a solid day for us. We got up there and we led then we pitted and lost track position. You just can't pass. It will age and it will keep getting better. This race was better than last time and it will keep improving. We did what we needed to do,” Bowyer said. “I said we needed single digit numbers. If we keep doing that then they are running out of races to catch us."

Truex said the race came down to track position.

"We had a really strong NAPA Toyota in today's race, but it was all about track position. We just were in the wrong lane on a couple of those restarts and that ultimately hurt us because it was just too tough to pass. The guys did a really good job giving me a strong car today and we showed our strength early on, but unfortunately it was just tough to get that track position."

Hamlin sounded pretty grim about the overall state of his #11 team.

"We didn't run very well. We were a 15th or 20th-place car most of the day and through attrition and what not, we got a good finish. We definitely have a lot of work to do I feel like on all aspects of our car right now."

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