The President of Toyota Racing Development David Wilson described Kyle Busch getting eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs his “worst nightmare imaginable.”
Busch was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after a “catastrophic” engine failure at Bristol Motor Speedway after completing just over half the race.
After parking his car in the garage, Busch told reporters, “Absolutely devastated. Just unfortunate circumstances obviously. Another engine failure this week. Obviously, we’re already in a hole, but puts us in a deeper one.”
“I can’t stress it enough just how much I feel for my guys and the ones that are out there pouring their souls into this effort and this opportunity for us to go race for championships. It’s not fair to them. Hate it for those guys, and Rowdy Nation, and M&Ms, and Interstate Batteries. We all want better. We all should have better and it’s just not coming to us right now,” he added.
When asked if there was any warning and about the other Toyotas having issues, Busch answered, “There was no warning. And I think some of the other issues are power steering related, mine was catastrophic.”
He was then asked about the possibility of it being mandated parts from NASCAR given Kevin Harvick’s recent comments after he was forced into a DNF following a car fire at Darlington.
“No, that’s completely different than our situation,” Busch replied. “They’re talking about the steering rack and steering parts and pieces that you’re mandated by NASCAR to run. Our issue is a Toyota issue.”
Busch had an engine failure at Darlington as well. He led 155 laps, won stage 2, and had one of the better cars before the engine failure. He finished 26th at Kansas.
Wilson spoke with NBC Sports about Busch getting eliminated telling the outlet it was “the worst nightmare imaginable for me personally and for our team.”
He added, “We cost Kyle Busch a shot at his third championship.”
Wilson went on to state, “Whether we’re so fortunate enough to possibly win a championship with either Christopher or Denny later this year, I’m still going to be haunted by what happened, not just in Bristol, but Darlington as well. Two engine failures across three weeks is unheard of. It’s unacceptable.”
Wilson also rejected the theory that Kyle Busch was being sabotaged because he’s leaving Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing for Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet next year.
“I’ll say that it is offensive as a professional and somebody who takes their responsibility as greatly as I do,” he said. “And I’ll say for those fans who are actually ignorant enough to suggest that this is some sort of a mastermind conspiracy to rid ourselves of Kyle Busch early, I would simply say go back to trying to find the edge of the flat earth. It’s absurd.”
He then detailed just how big of a loss Busch’s elimination is, “bviously, for Toyota, losing Kyle in a run through a championship is a massive setback. Kyle Busch is money in the playoffs. … By losing him, we take a big hit. There’s zero upside. There’s zero upside. It’s just a crushing blow to our organization.”
“There’s nothing I can do. I’ve apologized to Kyle. I’ve apologized to (Joe) Gibbs. This is on us and hated that we let them down,” he relayed.
As for what the engine issue is, he explained the problem, “We have some sort of an instability in our valve train and it seems to be triggered by us running into NASCAR’s mandated rev limiter, interestingly enough.”
Specifically addressing Busch’s engine failure at Darlington he said, “He buzzed the rev limiter hard and a lap-and-a-half later, his engine let go. Now, just to be clear, our stuff should be durable enough. It should be tough enough to handle that.”
As for the failure at Bristol he detailed, “At Bristol, NASCAR miscalculated the gear ratio. It was too short. When Kyle, particularly when he was running that upper groove in fifth gear, he was hitting the rev limiter, almost every lap. The fact is that right now we just don’t have enough durability margin in our valve train. That’s on us.”
He went on to further explain why he believes these engine failures are happening across all teams, “It’s not the car per se, but it’s some of the components. It’s running a five-speed gearbox with closer gear ratios that require drivers to shift. Shifting puts more of a load across our engines. On top of that, NASCAR has lowered their mandated rev limiter from 9700, down to 9200 RPMs. We’re operating in a power band (where) the target is really to run about 8500 rpm.”
“But because of the gear ratios, because of the five speed, we’re getting to the rev limiter much more often this year than we ever did in the past,” he added.
Wilson then posited, “Arguably, I would venture to say, were we running the same package as last season, we would see none of this. We’ve just not experienced this. We’ve uncovered a weakness in our valve train.”
He also indicated that he and Toyota made significant changes to their engines heading into the race at Texas where Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell are still in contention for a Driver’s Championship and Bubba Wallace is piloting his 23XI Racing Toyota for an Owner’s Championship.
Wilson explained, “We’re not giving up our performance potential. We feel like it’s conservative enough to get us kind of out of this danger zone.”
What do you make of Wilson’s comments regarding Kyle Busch’s engine failure?