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Bad news for the Hendricks team


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I'm beginning to rethink my Bengalszone Fantasy Nascar team right about now... :(

Engine issues sideline Hendrick cars

February 13, 2008

By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) - Just when it appeared it would be smooth sailing for Hendrick Motorsports at this year's Daytona 500, some of that optimism went up in a puff of smoke during Wednesday's practice session.

Nearly every car using Hendrick engines experienced failure in the final practice session before Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races.

The issue appears to be a bad batch of lifters - which failed in practice - forcing all four Hendrick cars driven by Daytona 500 pole winner Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Budweiser Shootout winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears.

Also, the No. 66 Chevrolet driven by Scott Riggs switched engines because that team uses its engines as part of a lease arrangement with HMS Engines.

Because those cars had to change engines, it affects the starting positions in Thursday's two 150-mile qualifying races, but it will not affect Johnson's pole position for the Daytona 500.

The teams that changed engines will have to start in the rear of the field in each of the respective duels.

However, HMS head engine builder Jeff Andrews said none of the engines broke.

"We don't have anything apart yet; we just have assumptions based on some early signs we saw in some checkovers following that early practice," Andrews said. "We have a group of guys back in Charlotte - the best group of guys in my mind - (and they) have already started on a fix for the program.

"We will get this stuff back, get it rebuilt and get it brought back down here. What we had to put in the cars, we have a lot of confidence in for tomorrow."

Steve Letarte is Gordon's crew chief and said the mission to start near the front of the Daytona 500 remains the same - they just have to do it from the back of the pack at the start of Thursday's races.

"You hope and you just want to believe they've been consistent and the combination is correct and can be repeated," Letarte said. "But you get into new parts and sometimes you find out that they weren't as good the ones in the preseason and have trouble.

"You have an epidemic. Our engine trouble last year was very little and the things we had were either infant-mortality issues with a part that had some variability in it or a part that had an inclusion or something that wouldn't go quite as long as it should."

Johnson leads the field to the green flag of the first 150-miler, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday. Michael Waltrip will start on the pole in the second race that starts after the first race is over.

Andrews did not believe the engine problems were the result of higher RPMs (revolutions per minute).

"Right now, we are making a lot of assumptions because we haven't been in and haven't looked at the full picture until we get the engine completely apart," he said.

"We know we have a problem there with that lifter interface and until, like I said, we get the engine disassembled and find out what has actually caused that problem, I can't really comment. I can't really relate it to Toyota's problems, because our package is different than theirs."

Andrews said his department won't be able to hone in on the problem until they get the engines apart. He did indicate, however, that the lifters all came from the same vendor, so it could be a "batch" problem, meaning an issue when that batch of parts was produced.

"It is leading us to think we have an issue with a batch or something because this is the exact same package that we came down here and tested with," Andrews said. "We have, I think, three durability runs on our AVL dynos back at the shop so we have a lot of confidence in the package.

"It's the same package we raced in the Bud Shootout. We took engines back after the Bud Shootout, they look really good. (They) looked great, so we are looking at a batch issue right now and trying to sort through some things to get the guys in Charlotte pointed in the right direction."

Andrews admitted concern that the problem was widespread among the other HMS engines but the timing of discovering a problem in Wednesday's practice rather than Sunday's Daytona 500 was fortunate.

"It is early enough that we can fix it and, like I said, we have a group in Charlotte that is going after that right now," Andrews said.

He also indicated that all teams using HMS engines, including Furniture Row Racing and driver Joe Nemechek, would be treated the same as the regular Hendrick drivers.

"Whether it is a Hendrick team or a lease team, we will treat them exactly the same," Andrews said.

Toyota engines have also experienced a similar problem, which appears to be a coating issue. Those teams developed a "fix" for the problem before practice.

All engines and engine parts were shipped back to TRD Headquarters in California after problems developed in last Friday's practice.

"We came up with a solution and so far it works," said Andy Graves of Toyota Racing Development. "We'll see how the stuff holds up in the race. The other engines have looked fine today. The cars that have the engines in them that have our fix all looked perfect right now."

Graves noted the lifter interfaces between the pushrods and the camshaft. If the lifter starts to get scuffed, it will cause excessive heat on the camshaft, which would cause it to wear out quicker.

It's just another element that adds to the pressure that comes with the Daytona 500.

"We just have to start last tomorrow; if we have a good car in the 150, we should be fine," Letarte said. "I want to start up front in the 500, make no mistake about that. If we don't finish up front in the 150s, it won't be because we started last."

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Robby Gordon uses their engines too and I have to say that I am a Robby Gordon fan because I love single car owners that are the underdog.

I hope this gets fixed.

Go Jr.

Hate to break this to you Dan, but Robby Gordon is driving a Dodge this year. He hasn't driven a GM car in two years. Last year he drove a Ford. You cannot put a Hendricks engine into anything but a Chevrolet, the same as you cannot put a Roush/Yates engine into anything but a Ford. Robby has a Ray Evernham engine powering his Sprint Cup car.

I'm beginning to wonder about you man.

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