There are somewhere in the vicinity of 840 parts in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Engine (at least the Chevy version and yes, I am taking someone’s word for this. I did not have time to sit down and count all the pieces.)
The relevance of this is that if any one of those pieces doesn’t do its job, the car it is in will be headed for the garage. This year, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) engines have suffered from one of the highest failure rates see in the series. I pulled together data from the first thirteen races of 2011 and 2013. 2011 was the last year Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had its own engine program – they switched to TRD engines in 2012 because of an abnormally high failure rate in JGR engines.
Let’s look at the numbers for the first thirteen races in 2011 and 2013. thanks to racing-reference.info for the numbers and to Jayski.com for their charts that show who was using what engine maker what year.
|Made||% Failed||Made||% Failed|
|Toyota Racing Development (TRD)||68||1.5||81||9.9|
|Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR)||39||7.7||(13%)|
The number of engine suppliers is shrinking, since Penske went to Roush-Yates in 2013 and Joe Gibbs to TRD. Note that ECR lost Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing to Hendrick as well.
The engine failure rate shown in 2013 for JGR (13%) is the fraction of TRD engines that were in JGR cars when they failed. In actual numbers, Toyota’s lost 8 engines this year, 5 of those being JGR. (JGR uses just under 50% of the Toyota engines. Mind you, we’re dealing with small numbers here. It’s worth noting that JGR ended the 2011 season with an overall failure rate of 5.6%.
But what about results?
|JGR: 2011 vs. 2013|
|Wins||2 (15.4% of all wins)||5 (38.5% of all wins)|
|Top 10 finishes||14 (36% of all starts)||19(49% of all starts)|
|Laps Led||1078 (25%)||2053 (34%)|
|Top 10 qualifiers||19 (48% of all starts)||28 (68% of all starts)|
Up in all categories. It’s a little hard to compare too much else between 2011 and 2013 because of exigencies: Kenseth’s penalty, Hamlin being out of the car and Logano vs. Kenseth in the 20 car.
So does that mean Toyota’s high engine failure rate isn’t a problem? Right now, it’s really not an issue; however, we’re still in the 26-race segment to qualify for The Chase. Now is the time to learn and experiment because a mistake isn’t as costly. You just need to make sure your drivers are in the top 10 – although it’s nice to be first at the end of the first part of the season, it doesn’t mean anything when they are handing out awards at the season’s end.
Things change once The Chase starts. During the long part of the season, each race is 1/26th (4%) of your total race-for-the-chase score. In the chase, each race is 10%. Mistakes in the chase are much more fatal than mistakes during the regular season.