Saturday, August 13, 2011
Denny Hamlin seeks Toyota engine
By David Newton
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Denny Hamlin, who has experienced more than his share of engine issues this season, may have a Toyota Racing Development engine in his Sprint Cup car next weekend at Michigan.
TRD president Lee White said there remain issues to work out, the biggest fitting the TRD engine into a car for which Joe Gibbs Racing builds engines specifically.
Hamlin said he and crew chief Mike Ford requested the change as the team, ranked 11th in points and currently holding the second wild-card spot with a win, tries to solidify its Chase position.
"We felt like we were on pace to have an engine failure every four weeks or so,'' Hamlin said after hitting the wall during qualifying for Sunday's race at Watkins Glen International. "We just knew we were going to have another one before the Chase started if the odds worked out, and another couple in the Chase.
"We asked TRD to help us out and they were more than happy to help us out.''
TRD and Joe Gibbs Racing announced Thursday that they were combining their engine efforts beginning in 2012. JGR has built its own engines, while other Toyota organizations have used TRD engines since the Japan-based manufacturer entered the sport in 2007.
During the announcement, White and JGR president J.D. Gibbs didn't rule out the possibility that one or more JGR drivers could use the TRD engine this season.
That Hamlin, who is 23 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 10th spot in points, is seeking the change shows his team's concern with the current engine. He most recently blew an engine during practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, forcing him to start from the back.
Hamlin's problem during Saturday's qualifying had nothing to do with the engine and everything to do with being too aggressive. He said there are no plans to go to a backup.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.