Through the first third of the Sprint Cup season, Joe Gibbs Racing had clearly established itself as the team to beat in the NASCAR garage. But in the FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway, the team's biggest weakness was again exposed.
As Matt Kenseth was comfortably ahead of the field, his No. 20 car began billowing smoke, signaling yet another engine failure in a season defined by the continued unreliability of the Toyota engines.
"I feel like JGR has three of the strongest teams in the garage," said Kenseth, who finished 40th. "It seems like we got the best cars out there -- or equal to the best cars. But, you know you have to finish these things. Obviously, there's been some issues in that department. Got a lot of faith in them guys. They'll get it figured out."
"Pretty disappointed to be standing here."
Kenseth's engine woes follow a similar problem experienced by Kyle Busch in last weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And it was also the second time this season Kenseth had to drop out of a race while leading due to a motor issue, as it also happened at the Daytona 500, where he led 80 laps.
However, Toyota's engine problems weren't limited to just Kenseth. Martin Truex Jr., driving for Michael Waltrip Racing, experienced a similar fate and had to call it a day early. Like JGR, MWR also receives its engines from Toyota Racing Development.
Although it was the first failure of the season for Truex, the doesn't blunt the disappointment. He was running in the top five at the time of the engine failure and was trying to end a six-year winless drought at the site of his lone Cup win.
"Something let go in the motor," Truex said. "Just dropped a cylinder and started smoking all at once. Obviously, we both have the same engine manufacturer. Pretty disappointing. We had a great race car today."
"Damn, I wish we could have made it to the end."
Overall this season, the manufacturer has had six in-race failures. Kyle Busch was the highest finishing Toyota driver at Dover, placing fourth.