Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t have a particularly good weekend in Indianapolis. The teams finished 10th, 25th and 27th. Adding to the weekend woes was what has become a very common problem for JGR – an expired engine; this time for Denny Hamlin.
This ongoing issue comes as rumors about the future of JGR’s engine program swirl. We’ve heard in recent months that there have been layoffs within JGR’s engine department and J.D. Gibbs said this weekend, after earlier denying it, that a collaboration with Toyota Racing Development is possible.
The team has struggled the last couple of seasons with sour engines. There have been nine expired engines so far this season prior to races. In the last two seasons, bad engines have cost the team five DNFs. Those aren’t numbers to be proud of.
Despite the issues, the team has had success with their engine program. Since switching to Toyota in 2008 they’ve racked up 34 wins. That means, in three and half seasons a JGR team wins one in every four races. Those ARE numbers to be proud of.
The same can’t be said for TRD’s engine program. Since entering the sport in 2007 they have just three wins – and of those three only one wasn’t decided by weather or fuel mileage.
The difference between the two programs is stunning. While one has flourished, the other has languished. While one has found success and competed for championships, the other hasn’t done much. Still, the TRD engines haven’t had nearly as much trouble as the Gibbs engines.
The serious issues with reliability are taking their toll on the team – things can’t continue like this if JGR hopes to compete for championships and regularly compete for wins.
I’m certain this is a top priority for Gibbs. And obviously, Gibbs’ head engine builder Mark Cronquist – a NASCAR and JGR veteran – would likely be part of any collaboration with TRD. One can also suspect much of the talent and knowledge that has made JGR such a powerhouse would make the move, but is this what’s best?
The team needs to get its house in order and soon. While Hamlin remains on the cusp of a Chase run and Logano is far out, Kyle Busch is likely to sit near the top of the standings when the points reset in a few weeks. If there’s any hope of converting the team’s success up to this point to a seat at the head table in Las Vegas, reliability has to be improved.