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Confidence In Toyota Engines Remains High

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 7 2013

Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip say they have ample power. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

RICHMOND, Va. – Despite Clint Bowyer’s engine failure last weekend at Atlanta while he was leading, his team owner, Michael Waltrip, said Friday he wasn’t concerned about the Toyota power plant’s reliability heading into the Chase.

“Toyota Racing Development has the ability to analyze and define what happened and make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and this week has been a busy week for those folks,” Waltrip said. “I think they’ve isolated what the problems were and we’ll react accordingly.

“Over the last 10 weeks I don’t think we’ve had any trouble under the hood until Atlanta and we’ve won the most poles and most races. So, obviously, a lot of things are going right with Toyota. A lot of the support that they give Michael Waltrip Racing and the resources that Toyota allows us to share with Joe Gibbs Racing, it makes us who we are. So, we trust them, we believe in them.”

Toyota has won 11 races and 10 poles in 25 Sprint Cup races this year. The manufacturer also has claimed victories at six of seven intermediate tracks. Joe Gibbs Racing possesses the most Toyota victories this season with nine – Matt Kenseth has five and Kyle Busch four.

Martin Truex Jr. says he has a new cast this week and it’s a little stronger than the one he destroyed during last weekend’s Atlanta race.

“I molded it a little bit better,” Truex Jr. said. “I’m sure it’s still going to hurt like hell, but we’ll just have to deal with it.”

Truex Jr. said he’s probably 70 percent right-hand dominant when he races and the Atlanta event was the first time he’d ever raced hurt.

“It was worse than I expected,” Truex Jr. said. “At the same time, I was able to drive the car better than I expected. It hurt, but I could deal with it. It was just not comfortable at all.”

With Jeff Gordon’s 73rd career pole at Richmond International Raceway Friday, the California native has set a record for claiming at least one pole in 21 consecutive seasons. The old record was 20 set by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson.

“This is amazing,” Gordon said. “It is not very often you get to break a record that David Pearson set. I’m pretty overwhelmed and blown away by that record in itself. I didn’t think it was going to happen this year. We just have not been qualifying well. Today just went really smooth.”

Gordon cited the Richmond test his team conducted a few weeks ago as instrumental in Friday’s performance.

“We really had some revelations when we were here testing a few weeks ago of some things that we had to work on,” Gordon said. “I’m so glad we did that test because we have made some huge strides and not only from last year some of the issues that we had, but earlier this year when we didn’t run very well here at all and I think they kind of came to the front of what was kind of maybe hiding underneath. We solved some issues and I think we made our car a lot better. It’s been reacting really well so far this week.”

Kurt Busch’s second fastest qualifying speed gave him his eighth front row starting position this season. That’s a career record for Busch. After final practice, however, it didn’t appear Busch would qualify anywhere near the front as he posted the 19th quickest lap.

“We just threw a couple of things at it and it stuck,” Busch said in explaining his dramatic leap on the speed chart. “There are days when you make changes and it doesn’t necessarily translate into speed. I’m glad that we could lean back on some of the knowledge we had from earlier this year.”

Jimmie Johnson missed practice and qualifying Friday at Richmond International Raceway due to a new addition to the Johnson family.

Johnson’s wife, Chandra, gave birth to the couple’s second daughter at 2:02 a.m. Friday at a Charlotte, N.C., hospital. She weighed 5 pounds 10 ounces and was 19 inches long.

Johnson will be at Richmond on Saturday for the Federated Auto Parts 400. Regan Smith qualified Johnson’s Chevrolet 10th. However, Johnson will have to go to the rear of the field for the start of the race since he didn’t qualify the car.

After missing the 2012 Chase, Kyle Busch enters Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway already locked in to this year’s title bout and that changes the way in which he’ll approach the event.

“It’s a weekend for us to have nothing to race for but a win,” Busch said. “It’s sort of like an All-Star race, I guess – steering wheel or go home. We’ll see how it plays out for us.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 7 2013
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