Racin’ with Russ
When? When? When?
Those are the words Dale Earnhardt Jr has heard over the past four years in regards to when would he win his next NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
By the end of Sunday afternoon, the fan favorite driver finally won his first race in 143 attempts in convincing fashion at the newly repaved Michigan Speedway.
Earnhardt’s 19th career win came on a long weekend at Michigan after an extra day of testing new tires on a new surface and a rain delay earlier on Sunday. After the two-hour delay, pole sitter Marcos Ambrose led the field to the stripe with Tony Stewart and Earnhardt not far behind.
Nearly 20 lead changes among 14 drivers took place on what became a nice summer day in front of a somewhat thin crowd.
Drivers such as Stewart, Hendrick drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and many more took turns out front. But it was lap leader Earnhardt taking the checkers, yet not without a nervous driver looking at a closing Stewart in his rear view mirror over the final couple of dozen laps.
Others in the top five include Kenseth, Biffle and an out of gas Johnson.
Notable finishes included Kyle Busch with problems yet again, netting the Gibbs driver a 32nd-place finish. The other two Gibbs drivers, namely Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, didn’t fare any better. Both drivers incurred accidents relegating them to 35th- and 34th-place runs, respectively.
Carl Edwards finished 11th after trouble in qualifying found the Roush driver starting a very uncharacteristic 42nd. He currently sits two points outside the Chase.
Joey Logano continued on a tear through the Nationwide series competition with a fifth win on Saturday afternoon in Michigan.
The 22-year-old driver drove his Gibbs No. 18 Toyota to the head of pack and stayed there, holding off the likes of James Buescher and Kurt Busch.
Others among the top five included rookies Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon.
Top contender and reigning champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr had yet another mechanical problem weekend, netting a troublesome 25th-place finish.
The latest run for the Roush driver drops him to third, right behind Dillon and leader Elliott Sadler. Stenhouse will have to turn things around soon before this years title slips away.
After starting in fifth, Danica Patrick spun three times and finished 18th.
The Indy Cars returned to the oldest track on the circuit, the famous Milwaukee Mile. Dario Franchitti took the pole, but faded quickly and out of the race with an uncharacteristic wreck, leaving him 19th for the day.
This latest poor run for the Ganassi driver may have stamped the final shot at this year’s title chase.
When the checkers fell, Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was the victor with Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe among the top three.
Penske shoe Will Power remains on top of the charts, despite a 12th-place finish.
Dodge’s plans for NASCAR involvement for 2013 remain up in the air at this point. With Penske leaving Dodge for Ford, the only team running Dodge products is part-timer Robby Gordon. There have also been rumors about Petty Motorsports returning to Dodge products, but this idea has yet to be confirmed.
After a one-race suspension, Kurt Busch and team owner James Finch decided to return to racing…on a race-by-race basis. Busch can surely be his own worst enemy when it comes to credibility, and he is the only one who can control his own future destiny in racing. I would think one more super outburst with the media or his crew could lead to a dismal future.
Look for ex-F-1 driver Jacques Villeneuve to pilot the Penske No. 22 Dodge at this weekend’s road course race at Road America. The Canadian driver will also drive the same car later in the summer at the famed Circuit Gilles Villenueve named for his famous father. His previous entries into this venue have always been entertaining.
That’s it for this week. Next week, RWR will review the NASCAR races from Sonoma’s road course along with more racing news from around the globe. .