Just prior to the Auto Club 400, Logano's crew decided to change out their engine after discovering a problem. Hamlin didn't find out about the change until he was standing on pit road following driver introductions. When he heard, he was immediately concerned.
As it turned out, those concerns were well founded.
Less than 100 laps into the race, Hamlin's car started having an issue. At first, he thought it was mechanical. On Lap 105, he brought his car to pit road, his crew opened the hood and that was that.
The car was rolled into the garage, where Hamlin and crew stared under the hood for about five minutes before pulling the plug. Race over. Hamlin, who led 15 laps early on, ended the day barely halfway through the race. He finished 39th.
"I immediately became worried [when hearing about Logano's issue prior to the race] because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," said Hamlin. "All the engines are very, very close."
There have been five races this season. Joe Gibbs Racing has had engine issues prior to, in or after all five. Hamlin changed his engine prior to the Daytona 500. Logano changed his prior to Phoenix. A week later, Hamlin swapped out his engine prior to the race in Las Vegas. Kyle Busch didn't and his failed. And after last week's race at Bristol when the cars returned to the shop, the team found an issue in Logano's carburetor.
"At this point, yeah, because now it's starting to affect me, so I'm worried a little bit more," Hamlin said when asked if he's concerned about the rash of engine issues at JGR. "It's frustrating because we do the best we can each week, and the team is doing a great job setting up the cars. We had a fast car, but it doesn't matter in the end if you can't finish."
Hamlin said the issues have been of the same nature, but not the same problem, and that's what is making it difficult to diagnose.
"Needless to say we've got our work cut out for us," Hamlin said.
Going into Sunday's race, he was 17th in the standings. He now sits 21st.
- Joe Gibbs Racing