Engine Woes KO Joe

FONTANA, Calif. - An engine failure on Lap 178 of 250 put a screeching halt to a dominating performance by Joe Nemechek and the U.S. Army team in Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway.

"The U.S. Army Chevy and the pit stops were as close to being perfect as you can get -- the complete package was working," said Nemechek who led the most laps (63) in the Nextel Cup race. "Until the engine broke, it was an incredible performance and the car was a lot of fun to drive."

When Nemechek radioed the Army of One crew that the engine broke, he had a big lead on the two-mile Southern California oval.

His performance was so powerful that he never ran lower than his starting position of fourth. His day finally ended on Lap 180 when he drove the black and gold machine to the garage and was credited with an undeserving 39th-place finish.

"What's amazing is that we made an air pressure adjustment after the first pit stop and never touched the car after that," said Nemechek. "Aerodynamically we were balanced, the engine was great, everything did its job. We just didn't make it to the end.

"Very seldom do we have engine troubles. I have to thank Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports for the engines. It was just one of those days."

Nemechek took the lead for the first time on Lap 109 when he came into the pits second and went out first.

"Excellent pit stops all day -- our guys were really on it," offered Nemechek. "Man, once we got out front the Army car really checked out. Up until the engine broke it was consistent and awesome.

"I am definitely disappointed. We built a new car for here and one for Las Vegas. We're going in the right direction -- we qualified well, raced well and that's all I can ask for. We'll diagnose the engine, fix it and we'll be back in Vegas (March 13) and I guarantee we're going to be there to win."

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