JGR's engine problems continue at Fontana Print
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Sunday, 27 March 2011 14:34
NASCAR Headline News

 FONTANA, Calif. (AP) - Another race, another set of engine problems for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Joey Logano had to swap out engines before Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway and Denny Hamlin lasted only half the race before his gave out, making it five straight races with engine problems for JGR. Fontana and Joey Logano had to swap out engines before it started.
``For some reason, our stuff is just struggling to keep it all together. I don't know why,'' Hamlin said. ``I don't know what's changed in the offseason. I can't really speak upon that too much, so I don't know. It's not like, I don't think that we're going outside the box, by any means. I think we're just having some part failures.''
JGR problems started with a fire at its engine shop in January, and all three of its drivers have had issues at least once this season.
Hamlin seemed ready to put his multitude of breakdowns behind him this weekend, qualifying second and leading 15 laps early while posting the fastest lap time in the 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway.
Things quickly unraveled around Lap 80, when engine issues sent him shooting toward the back of the field. Hamlin went a lap down by the race's midpoint and the team had to wheel his No. 11 car off the track toward the garage after 105 laps. He finished 39th.
After changing engines at Daytona and Las Vegas, this latest breakdown was tough to swallow.
``We lost some power early on in the day when we started dropping positions. We didn't know exactly what it was,'' Hamlin said. ``Obviously, it was another engine failure. It's frustrating, from my standpoint.''
Logano also had a tough early start to the season, losing an engine at Phoenix and suffering a broken wheel at Bristol, not to mention a carburetor problem discovered at the shop later. He also seemed to have put his bad luck behind him by qualifying third at Fontana.
That, too, quickly changed before the race, when Logano was forced to switch engines for his No. 20 car and was sent to the back of the pack.
Logano rapidly worked his way up to get inside the top 20, but couldn't move forward after that, finishing 25th.
Even Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 151 laps and finished third at Fontana, hasn't been able to escape the JGR engine woes, losing one at Las Vegas on March 6.
``Obviously, it's unfortunate and a big blow, I'm sure, to the organization with what we're doing in the engine shop,'' Busch said. ``It's not that you'll find something that you'll maybe get it fixed in a week, but you certainly wish we'd have gotten it done now.''
DILLON'S DEBUT: Richard Childress' grandson will make his Sprint Cup debut this season.
NASCAR trucks driver Austin Dillon will drive the No. 98 Curb-Agajanian Chevrolet at a race to be announced later. The car will be sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation's Centennial Celebration and the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.
``President Reagan was always one of my grandfather's heroes, so I grew up hearing about the president's strong leadership abilities and family values,'' Dillon said. ``Those are two qualities I carry with me in my career as a NASCAR driver by being a strong leader for my team and making my family proud of my accomplishments on and off the track.''
Dillon, who turns 21 in April, was the 2010 trucks rookie of the year after finishing fifth and setting a first-year record with seven poles.
The start will be the 100th for co-owner Mike Curb, who helped reunite Childress with Dale Earnhardt, a tandem that went on to win 67 races and six series championships together.
FONTANA FUTURE: Due to sagging attendance, Auto Club Speedway had one of its two NASCAR dates taken away, leaving only the spring race.
Track officials have been looking for something to fill the gap and could go the open-wheel route.
Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker said the track has had discussions with IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard about the possibility of adding a race from that series in the future. ``He's a great promoter and he's doing some great things with that series,'' Zucker said. ``We feel like this race track is the best in the world for open-wheel racing and we would love to see it return.''
PIT STOPS: Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart were enshrined in the Auto Club Speedway walk of fame before Sunday's race. ... This season is the first time since 2005 NASCAR's had five different winners through the first five races. ... Carl Edwards moved into the series points lead with 187 after finishing sixth. Kurt Busch, the previous points leader, dropped to third after finishing 17th.


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