DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick blew engines during Daytona 500 practice Saturday.
HScott Motorsports driver Bobby Labonte also had an engine failure, creating concern that Hendrick Motorsports might have issues. Stewart, Patrick and Labonte all lease engines from Hendrick, which also fields cars for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
“Not really concerned about it,” Stewart said. “Pretty confident it’ll be fine.”
After changing engines, Stewart, Patrick and Labonte will have to start at the rear of the field in their qualifying races next Thursday as well as the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.
Labonte’s engine went first. Stewart’s started smoking a bit later, followed about 10 minutes later by Patrick’s.
“I was like, ‘Man, are we doing something?’” Patrick said. “It’s something that we are doing in our family here and we need to figure it out. I was saying I bet other Hendrick cars are thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ So we have got time to hopefully figure it out. Definitely figure it out before the race.”
Though Hendrick drivers had no engine problems, Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt and Kahne seemed to be down on horsepower.
The fastest Hendrick driver during the first practice was Gordon, who was 21st on the speed chart.
“We feel like we understand what is happening,” Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt said. “We will get the engines back over and tear them down from NASCAR. I think we will be able to confirm everything that is happening. … We think we understand what is happening there and we will take a look at that.”
Duchardt and Scott Maxim, Hendrick’s director of engine track support, said they are confident the engines won’t be an issue in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race, in qualifying Sunday, in the dual qualifying races next Thursday or in the Daytona 500.
“Moving forward, we will be all right,” Maxim said. “We will identify what we’ve got and we will make changes needed, and I think that we will be able to make corrective action. We will be able to look the engines over closely and make sure that we are not going into (Sunday) with an issue. Then after that, we will be all good.”