NASCAR at Michigan 2014: Latest NASCAR Team News, Top Drivers and More

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IJune 11, 2014

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 17:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/TheDarkKnightRises/National Guard/ Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Another week, another Hendrick Motorsports driver finishing in Victory Lane.

Just a week after Jimmie Johnson completed back-to-back wins at Charlotte and Dover, Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued the streak of four consecutive wins for the team at Pocono. It was Earnhardt's first ever win at Pocono, but it marked the team's fourth straight at the track since 2012.

Outside of Hendrick's dominance, there are several notable drivers still on the circuit looking for a win and, more importantly, a spot in the Chase. Both Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne experienced issues at Pocono but have driven well at Michigan in recent seasons.

Before the Sprint Cup circuit officially hits the track in Michigan, here's a look at the latest team news and top drivers for the Quicken Loans 400.

 

Quicken Loans 400

Site: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan

Date: Sunday, June 15

Start Time: 1 p.m. ET

TV: TNT

Radio: MRN

 

Latest Team News

How about this for dominance: Two separate four-race winning streaks continued on one day?

That's exactly what Hendrick accomplished on Sunday. With the win at the Tricky Triangle, Earnhardt continued a streak of four races that stretches back to Kansas on the season and August 2012 at Pocono.

Ironically enough, all four drivers now have a win at the superspeedway during that streak, with Junior taking his first victory at the track. Tom Jensen of FoxSports.com shares just how rare the feat is for Earnhardt:

Junior's win also gives Hendrick several of the top drivers on the circuit. After his victory, Earnhardt has climbed to the top of the Chase Grid, with Gordon still at the top of the overall points standings.

Here's a look at the Chase Grid following Pocono:

2014 Sprint Cup Chase Grid
Pos.DriverWinsPoints
1Dale Earnhardt Jr.2476
2Jimmie Johnson2475
3Joey Logano2418
4Kevin Harvick2403
5Jeff Gordon1498
6Brad Keselowski1448
7Kyle Busch1443
8Carl Edwards1441
9Denny Hamlin1420
10Kurt Busch1283
11Matt Kenseth0482
12Kyle Larson0417
13Ryan Newman0411
14Brian Vickers0392
15Greg Biffle0385
16Austin Dillon0385
NASCAR.com

While Hendrick continues its reign of terror, one driver remains a hot topic as NASCAR heads into the "Silly Season" portion of the year.

Carl Edwards, who has a win on the season with Roush Fenway Racing, becomes a free agent at the end of the year. With talks of the 34-year-old potentially switching teams, Roger Penske eliminated any debate about him heading to Team Penske, via Chris Knight of CatchFence.com.

"There’s no interest," he said. "We don’t have the sponsorship to do a third full-time team and he’s under contract with Roush Fenway Racing. It doesn’t make sense."

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If Penske isn't willing to bring in Edwards, multiple other teams will likely be lining up to draw him in. But with limited spots on teams available, it appears his current manufacturer intends on retaining his services.

Bob Dillner of Fox Sports reports Ford doesn't plan to let Edwards get away after this season:

Ford did tell me this weekend at Pocono that it is there intent to re-sign Carl Edwards. There's a lot of talk about him going to the Penske organization, but I was told by my sources that will not happen. We also know that Joe Gibbs Racing is in the mix as well, and they are currently making preparations to possibly start a fourth team. Could that team be with Carl Edwards?

The rumors will continue to run rampant over the next few weeks until Edwards ultimately makes a decision. Sitting seventh in points and having a shot at a championship this year, don't expect Edwards to discuss anything until closer to the end of the season.

 

Drivers to Watch

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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After earning his first win at Pocono on Sunday, Earnhardt heads to another track where he's experienced success.

Back in 2012, Junior snapped a 143-race winless streak by taking the checkered flag at Michigan. He also followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the same season.

Apart from just the Penske vs. Hendrick duel that has been raging throughout the season, Nate Ryan of USA Today points out that Michigan will continue a budding rivalry between Earnhardt and Brad Keselowski:

Earnhardt has two wins at Michigan and, as Ryan notes, has driven well at the track in recent seasons. Last year, Junior led 34 laps before an engine malfunction on Lap 131 forced him to bow out and finish 37th.

He also led 20 laps in August before falling off the pace and finishing 36th. Given that track record, if he can keep a clean car, look for Earnhardt to once again compete for a win in Michigan.

 

Greg Biffle

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Get this: In his last four races at Michigan, Greg Biffle has two wins and an average finish of 3.75. Needless to say, the Ford driver might just be competing for a win yet again on Sunday.

Without a win on the season, the race couldn't come at a better time for Biffle. Tied for 15th with rookie Austin Dillon on the Chase Grid for the final spot in NASCAR's postseason, Biffle needs a win to essentially secure his place.

After a report from Jim Utter of The Charlotte Observer that Biffle will remain with Roush Fenway after this season, a win would certainly put an exclamation point on his week. Last year, Biffle believed his win at Michigan marked a turnaround for his season, per Ryan:

Two weeks ago, I'd have said, 'No, we don't stand a chance (to) make the Chase. Now I believe we've gained on the setup. If we work hard over (the) next 10 weeks, we'll be pretty competitive when it comes time for the Chase. Years past, we've been kind of at the top when the Chase came. This feels like we're rising up as we come to the Chase.

A third win in his last five starts at the track would certainly help turn around this season. With an emphasis put on winning in the new Chase format, look for Biffle to attempt to secure his spot with a win at Michigan.

 

Kevin Harvick

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He might only have one win at the track, but Kevin Harvick has certainly been a contender at nearly every recent race in Michigan.

Just behind Biffle last June? Harvick. The driver who couldn't quite catch Joey Logano in August? Harvick.

After putting together two strong starts at the track, it might just be time that Harvick finally secures his second win at Michigan. Despite only having one win back in 2010, Harvick keeping a clean car could be a nightmare for every other driver at Michigan.

With two wins already on the season, Harvick might be competing with Earnhardt at the end of the race for the first to three victories. If he doesn't experience tire or engine issues down the stretch, Harvick could be holding yet another checkered flag on Sunday.

 

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