Toyota Racing Development chief Kyle Busch described the cancellation of the playoff match due to an engine failure in Bristol, “the worst nightmare imaginable for myself and our team.
“Kyle Bush has cost us a shot at his third championship,” David Wilson told NBC Sports on Tuesday.
Bush was eliminated in the opening round after suffering an engine failure at Darlington and Bristol. This is the first time in his career that Bush has failed to get past the first round.
Wilson said changes have been made to all Toyota engines ahead of Sunday’s playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network). Engine changes will be carried out for the remainder of qualifying.
“We’re not giving up on our performance potential,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “We feel it’s conservative enough to kind of get us out of that danger zone.”
Bosch’s elimination leaves Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell as Toyota’s only competitors in the race for the drivers’ championship.
“Whether we’re lucky enough to win a championship with Christopher or Denny later this year, I’ll still be haunted by what happened, not just in Bristol, but in Darlington as well,” Wilson said. “Two engine failures in three weeks are unheard of. This is unacceptable.”
The engine problems come after Toyota did not suffer a single engine failure in last season’s Cup.
Wilson said Toyota found the problem in its engines.
“We have some kind of instability in our valve train that appears to have resulted from our way into the NASCAR-mandated tachymeter, which is interesting enough,” Wilson said.
At Darlington, Bosch misfired a shift from fourth to fifth gear, which contributed to engine failure. “He rocked the tachometer hard and, after a lap and a half, left his engine off,” Wilson said. “Now, just to be clear, our stuff should be sturdy enough. It should be tough enough to handle that.”
“At Bristol, NASCAR misjudged the gear ratio. It was too short. When Kyle was running in that upper groove in fifth gear, he would hit the tachometer, almost every lap. The truth is that at the moment we don’t have a sufficient margin of durability in Our valve assembly. That’s on us.”
Wilson also mentioned engine failures with each of the other manufacturers this season.
It’s not the car per se, but some of the components,” Wilson said. “It’s powered by a five-speed gearbox with closer gear ratios that require drivers to shift gear. Shifting puts more load across our engines. On top of that, NASCAR has lowered the mandatory rpm limiter from 9700, to 9200 rpm. We operate in a powerband (where) The goal is to run around 8500 rpm.
“But because of the gear ratios, and because of the five speeds, we’re hitting the speed limiter a lot more this year than we’ve done in the past.”
“Arguably, I would dare say, if we were running the same package as last season, we wouldn’t see any of this. We just haven’t tested this. We’ve uncovered a weakness in our valve train.”
Wilson denied that Bosch received weaker engines in qualifying because Bosch would leave Joe Gibbs Racing after this season for Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet.
“I would say it’s offensive as a professional and someone who is responsible for it as much as I do,” Wilson said of such speculations about Busch’s engines. “And to those fans who are actually clueless enough to point out that this is some kind of a mastermind plot to rid ourselves of Kyle Bush early on, I would simply say go back to try and find the edge of flat earth. It’s absurd.”
Wilson said he spoke with Bosch after Bosch decided to sign with Richard Childress Racing and focused on the rest of the season.
“We both confirmed our intention to have a landing mic moment in Phoenix, where he would win his third championship and have that championship with him,” Wilson said. “Obviously, for Toyota, losing Kyle in a Tour by Championship is a huge setback. Kyle Busch is the money in the playoffs. … Losing him, we take a big hit. There is no upside. There is no upside. It is just a crushing blow to our organization.
“There’s nothing I can do. I apologized to Kyle. I apologized to (Joe) Gibbs. This is on us and we hate that we let them down.”
On power steering issues in Bristol that a number of teams, including Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing had, Wilson said:
“This new car, and all the new systems we’ve been dealing with, has relatively very few reps. This is the first time we’ve raced in Bristol, a very tight half-mile on concrete. In a relative sense, I suppose we put more load in the steering rack, at This power steering, more than anywhere else. It was overrated. We were all stunned that this was happening, because I think (the power steering issues for Ty Gibbs and Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace) all happened within 20 laps of each other.This is incredible.
“I know, at least two or three of those cars actually blew out the seals in the rack (handlebar), which was caused by excessive pressure. So I don’t know what remedial opportunity there is from the team’s perspective.
“Even when it doesn’t lead to a peripheral problem, I know, almost every week, that the drivers, of varying degrees and different race tracks, were not happy with their steering.
“There is no doubt that NASCAR and the teams are looking at it. … We need to fix this moving forward.”
After facing various challenges in the first round of playoffs, Wilson said he concluded the team meeting Tuesday by telling TRD staff that “the measure of this team is not defined by moments of comfort and success, it is defined by how we respond in moments of stress and failure.”