Engine Issues Strike Stewart, Patrick and Labonte
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on February 15, 2014 | 4:01 P.M. EST
Danica Patrick was one of three drivers to have engines from Hendrick Motorsports blow Saturday at Daytona. (Photo: Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Bobby Labonte all suffered engine issues in practice Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, creating concern among Hendrick Motorsports teams since all three engines came from Hendrick’s engine shop.
Regardless of where Stewart, Patrick and Labonte qualify Sunday, they’ll start at the back of the field for their duel race Thursday night and next week's Daytona 500 because of the engine change.
Doug Duchardt, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, said the issues appeared to be related.
“We feel like we understand what’s happening,’’ Duchardt said. “The drivers have been consistent in feeling it’s something in the bottom end of the engine. For tonight and for the rest of the week when we go to race we really don’t have any concerns with the Sprint Unlimited or getting into the Daytona 500. I think it’s us trying to maximize two laps for tomorrow. It’s not a specific component issue. It’s how we go about trying to minimize the time around the track for qualifying.’’
Labonte’s engine was the first to expire and then the engines of Stewart and Patrick had problems at similar times.
Stewart said the bottom end of his engine broke. Patrick said her engine let go as she was almost finishing with her practice run.
“I bet other Hendrick cars are thinking what’s going on,’’ Patrick said. “We’ve got time to, hopefully, figure it out and definitely figure it out before the (Daytona 500).’’
Patrick, who won the Daytona 500 pole last year, said the timing proved to be fortunate.
“I only had a few hundred yards to go before the start/finish,’’ she said. “I guess I’m glad it did it then instead of being five seconds away from blowing up because that would have been (Sunday). We’ll get our arms wrapped around it and figure out what we can.’’
Hendrick Motorsports supplies engines to its teams, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and HScott Motorsports.