DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – All four Hendrick Motorsports teams changed engines in their Chevrolets following Wednesday’s Sprint Cup practice sessions at Daytona International Speedway.
Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have to start from the rear of the field in Thursday’s Gatorade Duel qualifying races. So will Scott Riggs, whose team at Haas CNC Racing also uses Hendrick-built engines.
Four other cars using Hendrick engines – those of Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek, Kenny Wallace and Sterling Marlin – had not decided to change engines as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Teams are allowed a change after the Duel, so Wednesday’s developments won’t impact what happens in Sunday’s 500-mile race.
The Hendrick teams’ problems involved lifters, parts between the push rods and valve springs, inside the engines. Several Toyota teams also suffered problems, apparently related to lifters as well. At least four drivers – Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Dale Jarrett and J.J. Yeley – will have to go to the rear of their Duels Thursday as well.
“We did not have any of them that truly broke,” said Jeff Andrews, the head engine builder at Hendrick Motorsports.
“We don't have anything apart yet, we just have assumptions based on some early signs we saw in some checks following that early practice.”
Andrews said he believes the problem stems from a bad batch of parts.
“This is the exact same package that we came down here and tested with,” he said. “The same package we raced in the Bud Shootout. We took engines back after the Shootout and they look really good.”