Three of the four cars of one of the most powerful teams in NASCAR had issues in qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway Friday night. Only one of the four cars made it to the final round of qualifying, but at the end of the session, none of the Hendrick cars will start inside the top 15 Sunday.
The trouble started in the first round. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was outside the top 24 who would advance the second round. After going out early he made another two laps late in the 20-minute session but came up short and failed to advance past the first round for the first time since Richmond last fall, he will start 26th Sunday. The three remaining teams, Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson all made runs in the first round good enough to advance to the second. However, Kahne who had just put down the second fastest lap, slowed entering turn four with smoke exiting the hood around the 8-minute mark forcing NASCAR to halt the session. The car was towed back to the pits and the team reported a blown engine that will need changed. Kahne’s team later said the engine likely went into EFI ‘protection mode’ and essentially blew-up.
“I got out of the car about when it started smoking,” Kahne said.