Toyota teams leave engine woes behind

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, leads Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Zest Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 10: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, leads Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Zest Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—In the first two races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, reliability was a huge issue for the engines in the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.

Figuratively speaking, blown power plants in the Sprint Cup Camrys created more noise than a July 4 fireworks celebration.

Though it might be too early to put those problems in the “solved” category, Toyota Racing Development, which partners with Gibbs to produce the Cup engines, had reason to rejoice on Sunday. Matt Kenseth won the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kyle Busch ran fourth—with the TRD engines lasting the full 400 miles.

“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks, as everybody knows, and so I really appreciate our partner, Toyota,” team owner Joe Gibbs said after the race. “In tough times, everybody kind of bands together around our place, and we start fighting and we worked our way out of some tough things.

“I felt like today we had three good cars. Two of them were caught speeding on pit road (Busch and Denny Hamlin). I think Denny got caught so late it was hard for him to get back on sync.”

Hamlin finished 15th, but the consolation prize was that his engine was running at full strength at the finish.

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