In fact, Rector revealed he did detect a change in the engine's note before Thomas attempted to qualify on Friday, but allowed the car to stage anyway because he knew rain
was coming Saturday and correctly thought the team might not get another chance to make the field. He confirmed the suspect barrel valve spool was foreign to the car, but added that the camshaft also was installed incorrectly in the second engine. "That motor was going to eat itself anyway," Rector said, fueling speculation that the problem may not have originated at Virginia Motorsports Park.

Regardless, Thomas is convinced he was a victim of trackside espionage.

"It's no surprise that almost all the trailer keys in these things will work to open each other's trailers up. That's just the way it is; that's life," he said. "But the other thing is, I'm a hundred-percent sure -- not maybe -- everybody can say it can't happen, but I know for a fact, a hundred percent, that somebody got in here and changed the spool in that barrel valve. Not maybe; I know they did."

Thomas acknowledged that missing the race in Virginia was a setback to his championship chase, but pointed out the season is only three races old and the conditions surrounding his rare DNQ just made him more determined than ever. "We came into here leading it, so if we get knocked back to second or third, it's not the end of the world. This has just made us madder. I haven't been mad for years, and the big thing is, we're going to come out to win now."

Security also will be stepped up in the Thomas camp.

"You know, I hate to look at it that way, but yeah, that's what has to happen," he said. " That's why I want everybody to know about it. Like I said, I know a lot of guys are going to say it can't happen, but you know what? It can, and it just did."

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