“To finish first, you must first finish.”
Dover marked the half-way point of the regular season in Sprint Cup. With 13 more races til the Chase cutoff there is still plenty of debate on who the contenders are for the title.
Obviously Johnson is the favorite with his 2 wins and points lead, but does he really have that much of an advantage over the Joe Gibbs Toyotas?
All total Toyota has 17 engine failures this season in just 13 races. For reference, Ford has 4, Chevy just 2. You can’t contend for a championship when your equipment can’t finish the race. While many of these engine failures have been from smaller teams, LaBonte, Nemecheck, Kvapil, etc., Gibbs has been hit hard and so have a couple other contenders.
Gibbs used to make their own engines in house, but recently switch to TRD manufactured engines, buying a completed product to reduce cost to the team. Michael Waltrip Racing also purchases engines from TRD. Those two teams have had 6 of the 17 engine failures. So TRD supplied engines have as many failures as Ford and Chevy combined.
2013’s winningest driver to this point is Matt Kenseth with 3, yet he is 74 points behind Johnson. Why? His 3 DNF’s, 2 of which were for engine failure in races that he was contending for wins. The engine failure at Daytona took Kenseth’s dominating car and placed it 37th, and 38 points less than Johnson. Another blown engine last Sunday at Dover was a loss of 25 points to Johnson, even after Johnson’s black flag.
Without these engine failures Kenseth would be right up with Johnson, and possibly ahead of him, and that’s with the 12 point penalty – also resulting from a TRD supplied engine.
JGR teammate Kyle Busch has 2 wins to his credit, yet sits 9th in points with 3 DNF’s. A 38th place finish from engine failure in the 600 after pacing the field and overcoming a fallen camera cable plus a blown engine at Daytona have negated any momentum Busch has been able to find.
Throw in Martin Truex’s engine failure at Dover and Bowyer at Auto Club and its a real issue for Toyota right now. Ford’s only significant team with an engine issue was Logano, and Chevy was when Dale Jr. went up in smoke earlier this season.
The biggest dilemma for Toyota is their engines have also been the fastest. Joe Gibbs’ cars have led an incredible amount of laps this season and MWR’s cars have run consistently, with Martin Truex threatening to end that winless streak a few times. To fix their engine reliability TRD, will most likely have to reduce the power advantage they currently hold.
They have announced changes to their engines for the upcoming Pocono race, which will test the Power vs. Reliability debate, as the three long straights at Pocono can be tough on engines and can also divide the field based on power.