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DATE News (chronologically)
03/07/09
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Five Toyota cars suffer engine failures UPDATE #3 So far, so good for Toyota Racing Development engines at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  TRD, plagued by engine issues prior to race day the last two weeks, did not have to change an engine Friday in Atlanta.  Using an oil with a higher viscosity and last year’s oil pump, TRD had no engine issues at Atlanta. The issue was with the lubrication of the lifter and the camshaft.  TRD President Lee White said a quick look at five engines after Kobalt Tools 500 practice and prior to qualifying all looked good. “They’re fine from what we’ve seen,” White said.

03/04/09 Toyota Racing Development has reverted to the oil pump used on last year’s engine and will continue the modifications used in last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas when its teams compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Michael Waltrip Racing, Red Bull Racing and Robby Gordon Motorsports use TRD engines. In the last two weeks, TRD has had to replace six engines during the race weekend – two at Auto Club Speedway in southern California and four at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The problem was a lifter or camshaft issue. TRD President Lee White said in a phone interview Wednesday that he believes the problems occur when there is no oil pressure as drivers are entering and exiting the garages during practice.

White said the oil pump used last year is better for those situations.

“Last year’s oil pump had better capacity at very low RPM,” White said. “We are able to deal with other means to deal with the high-end flow to match that to the requirement of the engine. That was something sitting on the shelf that we know worked.”

Reverting to the 2008 oil pump, along with the new lubricants used at Las Vegas and other modifications, has him cautiously optimistic about Atlanta.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed and we’ll see how it goes on Friday,” White said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m absolutely confident we have done everything we can do. Have we introduced something that will affect power, high-speed long durability like the other guys that have had their issues, I can’t tell you that.”

02/28/09 Toyota Racing Development is using different lubricants and coatings in hopes to correct the engine issues that plagued it this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

TRD President Lee White said Saturday morning that the pieces in question were first used last year at Texas with no problems and then put into production for use at Auto Club Speedway in California last week and Las Vegas this week. 

Two drivers – Michael Waltrip and Brian Vickers – had problems last week at California and had to change engines. This week at Las Vegas, four TRD cars – Michael Waltrip Racing’s David Reutimann, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose and Red Bull Racing’s Scott Speed and Brian Vickers – have changed engines. 

“It’s a wear issue between the camshaft and lifter – it’s either a coating, lubrication, lack of lubrication, too much lubrication, not enough coating or a material situation or just the simple fact that we haven’t been testing,” White said. 

The Toyota camp has changed some of the lubricants and stated that Toyota is trying to fix the problem, White said. The issue might be magnified when teams put ice water on the engine prior to qualifying and then use hot oil to obtain maximum speed. 

“We suspect whatever condition we’ve created ourselves stupidly, [we add to it] with the qualifying situation where you ice an engine by filling it with ice water, then slam it with hot oil, is unnatural,” White said. 

White said he is embarrassed that Toyota couldn’t fix the problem in the last week since California as it had made changes heading into the Las Vegas weekend. 

“We thought [the change] was the right direction,” White said. “I’m disturbed to say that the right direction apparently was the wrong direction. … We came here and thought we had a handle on it. We didn’t. We made it worse.” 

White was also frustrated that the problem appeared to have been fixed as the TRD camp had no issues during the race at California. 

“The incidents at Fontana were very surprising to us – we didn’t expect that at all,” White said. “Frankly, once we got into the race at Fontana and had no further issues [we were optimistic]. I was expecting a lot of questions – and I was kind of let off the hook when the Hendrick engines started failing. … That clouded my view of the whole situation.”

Only three cars (Waltrip, Robby Gordon and Max Papis) with TRD engines have not changed engines at Las Vegas, and White said because the problems typically appear by the 75-mile mark, those engines should be fine. 

“With the miles that are on them, we’d be adding more risk [by changing],” White said. “Once you get beyond a certain point and you haven’t seen any of these [problems], you’re golden.” 

Toyota engineers ran the engines with the new lubricants used in practice today for 500 miles last night on a dynamometer. The engines today will be scrutinized after practice. 

“We don’t race dynos,” White said. “There’s no way my dyno technician put the engine through the stress that the crew chiefs and the teams do when they’re searching for every last fraction of a second on the race track.” 

White said the changes likes will cost the teams 4-5 horsepower. 

“Four or five horsepower is not insignificant in this league,” White said. “No driver in the world would give it up willingly. But every team, given the top-35 situation, needs to get to the end. Our goal is to give them the best shot.” 

The engine issue with Kyle Busch’s car was related to the head gasket and not with the TRD problems, White said. JGR builds its own Cup engines and two other Toyotas in the field also don't get their engines from TRD. The engines also are different than those used in the Nationwide Series, so Toyota won't find any solutions during that race today, White said. SceneDaily.com

02/28/09 Kyle Busch blew a motor in his Toyota during Friday's practice session, changed the engine, then ran a pole-winning lap of 185.995 mph to knock his big brother off the pole. #2-Kurt Busch ran a lap at 185.707 mph. But under NASCAR rules, Kyle Busch will have to drop to the back of the field at the start of Sunday's race. Third-place qualifier Jimmie Johnson will slide onto the front row next to Kurt Busch during the warm-up laps. #00-David Reutimann and #47-Marcos Ambrose qualified fourth and fifth, but also had to change their motors after their laps and will drop to the back of the field. #83-Brian Vickers, who won the pole last week at California but had to forfeit it because of an engine change, and his teammate #82-Scott Speed also switched motors Friday. In all, five Toyota teams switched motors Friday. AP/ESPN
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