Kyle Busch encouraged by progress on JGR engines

Posted April 01, 2011, at 4:50 p.m.
Last modified April 01, 2011, at 5:25 p.m.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Kyle Busch said Friday that Joe Gibbs Racing officials determined its two engine issues last weekend were valve-related.

Busch refused to go into detail about how much he knows, but said before practice at Martinsville Speedway that he’s pleased JGR was able to diagnosis the problems. Denny Hamlin’s engine failed midway through the race at California, and Joey Logano’s team switched his the morning of the event because they didn’t think it would last for 400 miles.

“I know there were some valve issues. I don’t want to elaborate too much on it,” Busch said. “It’s something that at least we know what happened and where the source of the problem is. Anytime that you can figure all that out, you’re moving forward.”

JGR has had issues in all five races this season, including Busch’s failure at Las Vegas. But he said that problem was “catastrophic” and there was nothing left for JGR to dissect.

“We already found the source of last week’s issues with both Denny and Joey, so we feel pretty confident that we’re heading in the right direction with that stuff,” Busch said.

Both the engines Sunday were sent to Toyota’s facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., for the manufacturer to take a second glance at the engines.

Hamlin, who goes into Sunday’s race at Martinsville as the three-time defending winner, suffered tremendously from the failure last weekend. He finished 39th, and it cost him four spots in the standings. He’s ranked 21st.

Raikkonen may try NASCAR

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Juan Pablo Montoya said Friday he’s heard the rumors that former Formula One teammate Kimi Raikkonen is headed to NASCAR.

Raikkonen is reportedly planning to enter a Truck Series race at Charlotte next month. If he does try NASCAR, he’d follow Montoya, Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr. as the most recent former F1 drivers to move to America’s most popular motorsports series.

“The only thing that I heard is that he was being approved for Charlotte. I don’t know if he’s even confirmed he’s doing it,” Montoya said. “I think it would be cool if he comes here. He’s a cool guy and I think he would fit right in.”

But Montoya questioned the selection of Charlotte for a debut race.

“My first choice wouldn’t be Charlotte, to start my first race,” said Montoya, who drove his first stock car in an ARCA race at Talladega.

Speed also made his debut in an ARCA race at Talladega, while Piquet raced the ARCA event at Daytona. Both tracks are superspeedways, where handling is less important than at Charlotte.

Raikkonen and Montoya were teammates at McLaren. An F1 world champion, Raikkonen now competes in World Rally Championship. The Trucks race at Charlotte on May 20 falls between the rally races at Sardinia and Argentina.

Montoya said he was not surprised to learn the Finn was considering NASCAR because it’s more popular outside the U.S. than many realize.

“I think maybe if you would get the numbers of how many people internationally are watching these races … in Europe and Asia, I think you would shock yourself,” Montoya said. “People in Formula One are very selfish. They think there is nothing better out there. But the actual racing, this is exciting.

“It’s exciting to watch, it’s exciting to be here.”

Jeffery Earnhardt set for truck race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rick Ware Racing says it will field a Truck for Jeffery Earnhardt this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, after all.

Ware had said Tuesday he had terminated the contract with the 21-year-old driver because Earnhardt was actively looking for another ride. Ware also accused Earnhardt of trying to steal the team’s sponsor.

On Wednesday, the team owner blamed the decision on emotions and a lack of communication between the two. He says he’ll use Earnhardt this Saturday at Martinsville and work to keep him in the Truck for the rest of the year.

Earnhardt is the grandson of the late seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt. He’s 10th in the series standings through three races, with a best finish of seventh at Daytona.

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