DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Engine troubles during the day, wrecked cars at night.
Stewart-Haas Racing found all sorts of trouble at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
Owner/driver Tony Stewart and teammate Danica Patrick got the miserable day started with blown engines in pole practice for the Daytona 500. They will have to start at the back of the field in Thursday’s qualifying race and in the Feb. 23 Daytona 500.
Things got worse in the Sprint Unlimited a few hours later.
Stewart, Patrick, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch were involved in a nine-car wreck in the exhibition race, knocking out three of the four SHR cars in the event that kicks off the NASCAR season. Harvick was able to return to the track but was well off the pace.
“You hate to have that happen,” Stewart said. “That’s just part of it. Back at Daytona.”
The melee started when Matt Kenseth turned in front of Joey Logano. Logano’s front bumper turned Kenseth’s car sideways, triggering all sorts of chaos.
SHR was the big loser. It looked like Patrick would wave her way through an obstacle course of wrecked cars, but she got her left-side tires on the infield grass, which got her turning sideways. And as she tried to straighten out her No. 10 Chevrolet, boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. plowed into her.
“I got hit by my boyfriend. What a bummer,” Patrick said. “I was sitting there and pretty much just about stopped and then I got hit. That was it. It was a real bummer. I was having fun and I felt like I was learning a lot. It was good to run with those guys. It would have been nice to get it to the end for the experience.”
Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards also were involved in the crash on the front-stretch.
“Really unfortunate that so many cars are torn up, especially when it appears that I probably triggered it,” Kenseth said. “I feel bad about that and feel bad that all this stuff is all torn up.”
SHR has to figure Speedweeks will improve from here.
Stewart, Patrick and HScott Motorsports driver Bobby Labonte had engine failures in practice, creating concern that Hendrick Motorsports might have issues. Stewart, Patrick and Labonte all lease engines from Hendrick, which also fields cars for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
“Not really concerned about it,” Stewart said. “Pretty confident it’ll be fine.”
Labonte’s engine went first. Stewart’s started smoking a bit later, followed about 10 minutes later by Patrick’s.
“I was like, ‘Man, are we doing something?'” Patrick said. “It’s something that we are doing in our family here and we need to figure it out. I was saying I bet other Hendrick cars are thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ So we have got time to hopefully figure it out. Definitely figure it out before the race.”
Though Hendrick drivers had no engine problems, Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt and Kahne seemed to be down on horsepower.
The fastest Hendrick driver during the first practice was Gordon, who was 21st on the speed chart.
“We feel like we understand what is happening,” Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt said. “We will get the engines back over and tear them down from NASCAR. I think we will be able to confirm everything that is happening. … We think we understand what is happening there and we will take a look at that.”
Duchardt and Scott Maxim, Hendrick’s director of engine track support, said they are confident the engines won’t be an issue in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race, in qualifying Sunday, in the dual qualifying races next Thursday or in the Daytona 500.
“Moving forward, we will be all right,” Maxim said. “We will identify what we’ve got and we will make changes needed, and I think that we will be able to make corrective action. We will be able to look the engines over closely and make sure that we are not going into (Sunday) with an issue. Then after that, we will be all good.”