DOVER, Del. – A blown engine equaled a blown opportunity Sunday for Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth might have had the best car in the Fedex 400 at Dover International Speedway before his Toyota’s engine blew about 159 laps into the race. Toyota has had engine issues this season, and Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs race team was previously punished with a fine, suspension and points penalty for using a too-light connecting rod found in a post-race inspection.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,’’ Kenseth said of his day ending early. “I can’t be any easier on (the engine) than I’ve been on it, so something is wrong. It’s not driver-induced, it’s not too many miles in practice, it’s nothing like that. Something wrong with a part, and it broke.’’
Crew chiefs and engine builders sometimes prod drivers to take fewer practice laps leading up to Sprint Cup races, to try to conserve the equipment.
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Gibbs Racing dominated qualifying for this race, with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kenseth claiming three of the top four spots at the start. Busch and Kenseth had controlled most of the first 100 laps of the race.
“Man, it’s disappointing,’’ said Kenseth, who has been consistently fast all season. “I feel like JGR has three of the strongest teams in the garage.
“But you know, you’ve got to finish these things. Obviously there’s been some issues in that department. I’ve got a lot of faith in them guys; they’ll get it figured out.’’
Toyota engines have been problematic of late. Kyle Busch’s engine blew up during the Coca-Cola 600 last week. And Martin Truex Jr., who started second here Sunday, blew an engine with 120 laps to go.
After Kenseth’s team was heavily penalized for the too-light connecting rod, Toyota Racing Development took blame for the mistake. TRD said the part came from a vendor and was not an attempt to create a competitive advantage, since the reduced weight wouldn’t be of more benefit than the risk of a failing engine part.
After that penalty against the Kenseth team, Toyota pulled several other engines as a precaution against similar mistakes.