During the final laps of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan when Jimmie Johnson was chasing Greg Biffle, it looked like the Team 48 perfectionist was about to score another triumph.
Then the wall won.
Johnson’s No. 48 car blew a tire with two laps to go, and went from a strong second to a trailing 28th place finish. Three of the dominating machines of Hendrick Motorsports ended up in the garage and Johnson had no time to advance.
It’s no secret that Ford has struggled some with the new Gen-6 car early in the season, but they seem to be turning a corner with performance. Biffle’s strong run and win at Michigan and second place finish in the previous race at Pocono is evidence of a Ford surge. Biffle's win was the 1000th for Ford Racing.
Carl Edwards continues to have adequate runs and top finishes that have enabled his steady hold on the second place position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.
Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. dominated at the checkered flag in Michigan. Jimmie Johnson dropped 20 points. Tony Stewart is beaming about momentum. All of them had thoughts to share after Michigan.
Greg Biffle is the type of driver that seems to slip under the radar while he steadily moves to the front. Having at least one win going into the Chase is desirable. Two wins make for relief. More than two wins is like a guaranteed contender spot. He had this to say:
"We certainly didn't probably have the fastest car at times and kept working on it, kept making slight adjustments on pit stops, and you know, track position is huge with our car, and it's been well documented that we feel like we've been a little bit behind this season. We've been gaining on it."
"We're certainly not celebrating that we've found everything yet."
Kevin Harvick may ask for a lame-duck contract scenario every year if he and the No. 29 RCR team keep performing as they have. Harvick says,
"I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that we were going to even run in the Top 10."
"We just kept our head in there and kept digging and changing the car. We didn’t start off great. We made some big adjustments on that first pit stop and we were able to get some track position and then they did a good job managing. So, everybody did a great job today."
Martin Truex Jr. finished third in Michigan and has wheeled his No. 15 Michael Waltrip racing Toyota to six top-10 conclusions in 2013. He said,
"We fought hard today. We fought hard all weekend really. We were really strong in the long runs today. It just took us too long to get going. Overall it was a great day -- after the last two weeks we’ve had we really needed this. Hopefully, we will just keep this going and see where it takes us."
"We just have to keep doing what we’re doing."
Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team may finally have a chink in their formidable 2013 armor. Drivers and teams are still chasing him, but his point lead has shrunk to 31, allowing others to advance. Johnson commented,
"It’s just a bummer. We had a great race car. Our strategy was throwing some challenges at us today and we just struggled with maintaining track position. But we had a fast car."
"I hate having that problem at the end. I had to run the car really hard to get through all those guys and must have worn through that right front tire."
Tony Stewart is said to warm up in summer with his performance and the 2013 changing of the seasons has Stewart heating up. Coming off a win in Dover with two top-five finishes, he has the No. 14 spot in Chase playoff territory. Here's what Stewart had to say.
"I think we definitely got a lot of luck there at the end, but we'll definitely take it for sure because we haven't had much to this point in the year."
"I made a mistake on Friday and crashed the primary car on Friday, so this team had to work hard and do a lot to get us where we are today."
A lot goes into a race at this NSCS level and things like mistakes, equipment failure, engineering, luck and perseverance can influence the rise and fall of any top team.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.