This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tackled the challenge of the “Tricky Triangle”, Pocono Raceway, for the Party in the Poconos 400. For points lead and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson the Triangle was not a challenge whatsoever and he dominated the race throughout. His victory at the end was not a surprise what was a surprise was the performance of the Toyota drivers this week.
After another engine disaster for Toyota Racing Development at Dover last weekend, the new TRD management headed by David Wilson decided to tweak their engines in an attempt to stabilize them so that such catastrophic failures, as has been common in the post, start to disappear. There was a sacrifice to this new plan though the cars would not perform at the same level that they have so far this season.
This sacrifice was seriously felt by the entire pantheon of Toyota drivers this week. For the first race of the season, a Toyota could not be found in the top five come the checkered flag. Only Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin even finish in the top 10 at sixth and eight respectively.
This finish was not what Denny Hamlin was hoping for at all this weekend. Hamlin still desperately needs wins in order to have a prayer of making the Chase this year. After the race he said, “It’s a tough compromise, because in my opinion, I’m a racer. I’d rather blow up leading than run 15th all day.”
Regardless of Hamlin’s opinion, TRD didn’t have a terrible weekend and in the long run reliability can be worth a whole lot more than performance. Solid finishes week after week are the foundation of championships and to finish solidly you can’t have your engine blow up.