A couple of the Hendrick Motorsports cars had issues at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana last weekend. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car lost a transmission and it had to be replaced before the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Mark Martin's car had engine troubles during the race. Neither driver finished and had to withdraw early.
As for Jeff Gordon, his car was strong. He ran up front and battled Matt Kenseth for the win before settling for second. Jimmie Johnson's car actually led from the pole, even though he qualified second, and finished ninth.
Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, who get their engines from Hendrick for their Stewart-Haas Racing team, made it to the end of the Fontana race. Stewart actually led a few laps, and finished eighth. Newman was a couple laps down in 28th.
Johnson was asked about his team's engine troubles during qualifying for this weekend race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It appears that a batch of valve springs that got our other two cars and they literally broke on the same lap," Johnson said referring to the cars for Earnhardt Jr. and Martin. "Fortunately my car and Jeff’s car didn’t have those in them or the No. 39 (Ryan Newman) or the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) and we made it through. So it’s frustrating on that part because there is no way to x-ray valve spring and components beforehand to find impurities. Once something breaks, you can get in there and look at it and it’s pretty easy at that point for our guys to know what went on. But it’s frustrating on the front side."
Johnson added that the team tests the parts on cars as much as possible and it has no control if a bad batch of parts comes in. He said it's part of the risk of racing.
As for his car at Fontana, he said it started racing tight and he made it worse by offering some bad advice.
"At the start of the race, the car was really good, but tight," Johnson said. "As we tried to help the car, we actually kept making it tighter. Looking back on it, I really felt like the splitter was on the ground. So we made adjustments to help the front travel of the car to get the splitter off the ground and it just made the car worse. Come to find out after looking at our travels afterwards, the splitter wasn’t on the ground. So I kind of steered us in the wrong direction there. I was just tight. It wasn’t the splitter dragging and making the car tight. And the adjustments we made to try to help that just hurt it even more. We kind of missed it a little bit there and tuned ourselves out, which is not common for the No. 48 car but you live and learn and we have a better idea of what to do this week.”