Friday, March 5, 2010
Hamlin claims Toyota engine lagging
By David Newton
HAMPTON, Ga. -- The president of Toyota Racing Development doesn't agree with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin that the Toyota Sprint Cup engine is behind other manufacturers in terms of power and reliability.
"In Denny's case, at the end of the 2009 season he was being hailed as the heir [to Jimmie Johnson] by the media and he came into the season with extremely high expectations," Lee White said on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "He's had a rough start and he's disappointed, and he'll get over it as soon as he moves up front with his 19-year-old teammate."
White was referring to Joey Logano, who is eighth in points and coming off consecutive top 6 finishes. Hamlin is 22nd and Kyle Busch, the other JGR driver, is 12th.
"When do you see Toyotas up front these days?" Hamlin wrote this past week in a USA Today diary. "Not at all. I think Toyota is behind on their motors. In talking to our motor guy, we're still trying to figure out what it takes to make a good, reliable engine and make as much power as we did when JGR was running Chevrolets three years ago."
Logano didn't share Hamlin's strong feelings.
"As a driver, I'm never going to be satisfied with anything, especially the motor," Logano said. "We always feel like we need more. But I feel like Toyota has done a good job and I feel like we got some good motors in our race cars and Joe Gibbs Racing has done a good job building those things.
White said data collected by TRD indicates there's not much of a disparity in engine power between Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge. But he is concerned that Chevrolet has dominated the first three races, winning all three, claiming the top four spots in the last two and six of the top 10 spots in all three.
White would like NASCAR to perform a chassis dyno test to at least verify TRD's information.
NASCAR hasn't performed a chassis dyno since last summer at Michigan. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said the test is not planned this weekend, but could be an option in the future.
"Anytime you see one brand running up front that much it raise your eyebrow," White said. "You'd be foolish not to. Let's just say that if the opportunity presented itself I wouldn't think it would be a bad idea."
While White was emphatic that the Toyota engine has not fallen behind the others, he noted JGR builds its own engines and TRD builds engines for the other Toyota teams.
He also said there is a disparity between the performance of the Red Bull Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing teams that both use TRD engines.
He doesn't attribute that to horsepower.
"I've never met a driver who thinks he has enough horsepower, enough downforce or too little drag," White said. "Typically, every weekend there is only one guy who is happy with the car."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.