UPDATED: Kyle Busch makes engine change, goes to rear

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Kyle Busch will have to go to the back of the field for today’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k due to an engine change according to a report from Wendy Venturini on this morning’s edition of SPEED Channel’s “SPEED Center.”

Busch was slated to start fourth in the 312-lap event.

This is the second Toyota Racing Development engine that has been swapped by Joe Gibbs Racing in the last two days at Phoenix International Raceway. Yesterday, Denny Hamlin and his team opted for a new TRD motor and gave up their eighth-place starting position on the grid as a result.

Venturini broke the news of Busch’s team encountering a parts failure inside the engine of the No. 18 car this morning and that they were unable to fix the problem due to time constraints. She also said that Busch’s issues were unrelated to Hamlin’s own on Saturday.

Busch was battling for the lead last Sunday at the Daytona 500 when his engine let go with about 50 laps remaining. That came just two circuits after JGR teammate Matt Kenseth had fallen out of the race while leading due to engine problems on his own car.

The TRD motors have proven to be fast, but lacking in reliability right now. One wonders if this gives Phoenix pole sitter Mark Martin and his Michael Waltrip Racing team some pause going into today’s race; they utilize TRD motors as well.

UPDATE, 2:24 pm ET: Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer reports that valve spring problems were behind the engine issues for both Hamlin and Busch. According to Bonnell, mechanics on Hamlin’s No. 11 car found a part failure that required a replacement of the motor, while human error in re-assembling Busch’s engine caused the No. 18 team to go to a new powerplant.

Hamilton: McLaren could help create four-team F1 title fight in 2018

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Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot afford to let up in its push to improve ahead of a fiercer fight at the front of the field in 2018 – potentially including former team McLaren.

Hamilton clinched his fourth F1 drivers’ title in Mexico at the end of October as Mercedes continued its perfect record of championships since the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014.

The team faced a stiffer challenge in 2017 thanks to a resurgent Ferrari, while Red Bull also posed a threat towards the end of the season, setting the stage for another close fight next year.

Hamilton is expecting both Ferrari and Red Bull to remain a force at the front of the pack, but also feels McLaren could join the fight after ditching Honda in favor of a Renault engine supply for 2018.

“When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset,” Hamilton said.

“If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.

“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again.

“We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”

Hamilton started his F1 career with McLaren back in 2007, winning his maiden world title in 2008 before leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season.