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Tough day for Hendrick engines

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012

It was not a good weekend for the Hendrick Motorsports engine department at Michigan International Speedway. And things weren’t all rosy between two Hendrick teammates, either.

Jimmie Johnson’s motor gave out with five laps left Sunday, costing him what appeared to be a sure victory in the Pure Michigan 400.

Earlier, Jeff Gordon exited the race with engine issues. Defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart, whose Stewart-Haas Racing team uses Hendrick equipment, also had engine problems and completed just 109 of the 200 laps.

Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Hendrick’s other drivers – fared better by finishing third and fourth, respectively. And Stewart-Haas’ Ryan Newman got through unscathed, finishing eighth.

Neither Johnson nor crew chief Chad Knaus was talking after the race, so it’s not known what happened to the engine in the No. 48 Chevy – just that it expired on Lap 195 with Johnson well ahead of the field. It’s worth noting, though, that the engine Johnson used was a replacement to the one with which he qualified third for the race. That forced him to start at the back of the field.

Stewart had problems all day, going to the garage early in the race before returning to try and complete the race. But he didn’t last for long after that. He wasn’t sure what was wrong under the hood of his No. 14 Chevy.

“I’m not sure, it’s something that is not a norm for sure,” said Stewart, who finished 32nd and dropped to ninth in the points standings. “I appreciate everybody at the Hendrick engine department. We had three different engine tuners down there trying to get it fixed for us. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. It’s not something I’m concerned about. It’s just a bad day.”

Gordon, who finished 28th and whose Chase hopes are vanishing rapidly, said his engine dropped a cylinder.

“This is a tough place on engines,” he said. “We rarely have these issues and it’s unfortunate to have this one here today. When you come to Michigan and you turn these kinds of sustained RPMs on this fast of a track, it’s always of concern here. And that bit us.”

Engine problems weren’t the only frustrations for Gordon. He lashed out on his radio at Earnhardt, after he felt like his teammate cut him off in Turn 2 early in the race.

“I just didn’t think that it was the smartest thing to do, especially as teammates,” Gordon said. “But, he chose to do it and that’s fine. It all worked out. I don’t care who I’m racing out there; I’m going to show my displeasure if I’m not happy about something. But that one was pretty close; but no big deal.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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