HAMPTON, Ga. ? A dominant run by Clint Bowyer came to an inglorious end here at Atlanta Motor Speedway when the engine in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota expired on lap 193 of the Advocare 500.
Bowyer had been dominant, leading 48 laps and enjoying a comfortable advantage before the problem.
"That was a super big bummer right there," Bowyer said. "Our ? car was so fast. Why did it have to happen this weekend. That's the biggest thing."
Bowyer's wasn't the only Toyota entry to endure engine problems. Engine changes for Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) and MWR teammate Brian Vickers prior to the start of the race erased their respective qualifying efforts and relegated both to the back of the field for the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
MWR and Joe Gibbs Racing obtain engines from Toyota Racing Development.
"It's been such a rough weekend for TRD but they do such a great job," said Bowyer. "There's a reason we're up front, it's because they're building big horsepower. We're pushing for the Chase and trying to learn as much as we can.
"We learned a lot with this car. We were off a little bit in practice, and real proud of (Brian) Pattie (crew chief) for making some adjustments and getting me where I needed to be. It's a shame."
With five-time champion Jimmie Johnson struggling at Atlanta, Bowyer had moved ahead of the Hendrick Motorsports driver in the points standings. But that advantage went up in smoke when Bowyer was forced to make the hard left turn into the garage with the race still under way.
"It was our race to lose and unfortunately we found a way to lose it," he said.
While his team wasn't convinced the engine was beginning to go away, Bowyer said he was "pretty sure what I was hearing."
"That tractor was getting sick, and she just expired," he said. "(It's) part of racing. Kind of sucks, though."
Bowyer was unaware he was ahead of Johnson in the standings. He entered the race trailing by 15.
"No (crap)?" he said. "Yeah, it matters, dammit. But what do you do? The engine blew up. I was trying."
Problems earlier this year forced TRD officials to step back and regroup, opting for slightly less horsepower but more durability after a rash of engine failures. Those issues seemed to have been solved until this weekend's failures.
It had been 11 races without an engine-related issue for the group, according to officials.
Unofficially, Bowyer finished 39th. He maintained his second-place position in the points standings, however, and has already clinched a berth in this year's Chase For The Sprint Cup.
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