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Engine Woes Have Hendrick’s Elliott On Edge

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 26 2019
Engine failures have the attention of Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Chase Elliott said Saturday at Martinsville Speedway that he didn’t believe the engine problem his Chevrolet suffered five laps into the first practice at the short track was related to the Dover issue that sidelined him after only eight laps. 

Elliott, who qualified second for Sunday’s First Data 500, said he didn’t know if the fact the engine problems weren’t related was good or bad.

“But, anytime you have two engine problems in four weeks, that’s not good,” Elliott said. “Sometimes with engine failures or with parts failures … when you break something, the worst thing that can happen is you don’t know why or what broke. We just need to make sure we do a good job of trying to figure out what caused the failure if we can find it. I think if we can do that, I think we can correct it.”

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Pit crew changes were made at Team Penske after the Kansas race where Brad Keselowski was eliminated from the Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs. 

A Penske spokesman said Saturday that tire carrier Wade Moore and jackman Graham Stoddard have been moved from Ryan Blaney’s team to Joey Logano’s. Keselowski’s entire pit crew was moved to Blaney, starting at Martinsville. Tire carrier Dylan Dowell and jackman Nathan Ricketts were moved from Logano’s car to Keselowski’s. And gasman Andrew Lackey and tire changers Ryan Flores and Greg Donlin were moved to Keselowski’s team from Blaney’s.

“We had a rookie jackman this year who has made a lot of good gains over this season, but I feel the opportunity to put, basically, the same team together that won the championship last year for the next few races, I think was a smart play,” Logano said Saturday.  

“We definitely needed some speed from the pit crew side of things and putting the band back together from where it was last year when we won the championship makes sense.”

Last year, Team Penske made pit crew changes after Blaney was eliminated from the playoffs.    

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Kyle Busch has struggled throughout the playoffs, posting only two top-five finishes, and NASCAR’s Cup season regular champion admitted Saturday at Martinsville Speedway he’s glad he had bonus points to carry him through the post-season. 

“There hasn’t been a clean race that we’ve had in the playoffs that have given us the opportunity to run up front all day and be in control of our own destiny towards the end of the race,” said Busch, who qualified 13th for Sunday’s First Data 500. “We’re always coming from behind. Every time you come from behind, you can only make up so much and last week we showed that again. We drove through the field three times and could only get to second.

“You just have to tackle it as it comes against you and deal with it then.”

Busch’s most recent victory this season came in June at Pocono. It’s an 18-race winless streak that the Las Vegas native attributes to simply “circumstances.”

“We had an opportunity to win Loudon and we had damage on a restart with five (laps) to go in a stage and then had to come back down (pit road), which ruined our track position for the day on that one,” Busch recalled. “Same exact thing happened last week. We pitted, had damage at the end to finish a stage, had to come down and come from behind and then we had a throttle problem. Give me the list of the season and I can tell you what’s happened to us. 

“It’s just been frustrating for sure; unfortunate circumstances. I put myself in the fence in Vegas, came back from that and then we had something else happen. It’d be nice to have a clean race.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 26 2019
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