Four is great, but five straight wins looks manageable for Hendrick Motorsports.
It all started with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both collecting their first victories of the season in consecutive weeks. J.J. then made it three straight with back-to-back wins, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got a firsthand look at Victory Lane in Pocono for the first time in his career.
It's been a wild run for the Hendrick team, but all great things must come to an end. That doesn't necessarily mean it has to happen at Michigan, especially after the qualifying that each driver put down Friday night.
All four drivers will start the race inside the top 13, with Gordon (second), Earnhardt Jr. (third), Johnson (seventh) and Kasey Kahne (13th) rounding out the group. But the big story on Friday night was not Hendrick, but Kevin Harvick's historic lap he threw down.
With the race just hours away, here's a look at the full schedule, viewing information and drivers to watch for the Quicken Loans 400. Full qualifying results can be found on NASCAR.com.
Quicken Loans 400 Race Information
Site: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan
Date: Sunday, June 15
Start Time: 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNTDrama.com
|Michigan Starting Grid|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
Drivers To Watch
If Hendrick really is going to continue the streak with a fifth straight, Gordon might be the man for the job.
The four-time points champion has two victories at Michigan along with 18 top-five finishes and an average finish of 12.5 over his career. Gordon spoke about his ride this weekend, per Jared Turner of Fox Sports:
The car is just really solid. I'm really proud of all the guys and all the hard work they've put in as well as the engine shop. At a place like this, the only way that Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS is getting around here that fast is that you've got to have a lot of power under the hood. The engineers are doing a great job with the bodies and getting the cars through the corners as well. We'll certainly take this second place (qualifying run) and take it into Sunday with a lot of momentum and a lot of excitement.
Speaking of momentum, Gordon certainly has plenty of it on his side.
While the 42-year-old has just one win on the season, he also finds himself atop the traditional points standings. After the format change at the beginning of the year wins have been made more important, but Gordon's consistent driving still makes him one of the best on the circuit.
Heading to a track where he's experienced a great amount of success, look for Gordon to yet again run up near the front in Michigan. The experienced driver just might be at the top of both standings following the weekend.
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride.
That might not be entirely true for Harvick—who has won a race at Michigan—but he has come up short in each of the last two races at the track. Coming into Sunday, no one in history has been as fast as Harvick at Michigan, as NASCAR Stats notes:
On a two-mile track, humming along at over 200 mph is really, really fast.
One thing Harvick has in common with the Hendrick drivers? He shares the same engine as the dominant team but clearly had the best in qualifying.
Harvick has two wins on the season already and has a spot guaranteed in the Chase, but he still has plenty to work toward on Sunday. If he can clinch his second win at Michigan, the No. 4 driver would be the first to three wins in Sprint Cup this season.
While many of the top drivers heading into Michigan just so happen to be driving Chevrolet cars, Brad Keselowski might just be the best hope for Ford.
Following two second-place finishes in consecutive weekends, the No. 2 car looks primed for a win in his home state. Though he's never visited Victory Lane in Michigan, Nate Ryan of USA Today Sports points out how close Keselowski has come in the past:
Keselowski has only two top 10s in nine starts (a third in 2011 and second in '12) here, but the Rochester Hills, Mich., native desperately wants to win at his hometown track, where Fords historically have excelled.
... "I can only imagine what it would mean to me at the Cup level," Keselowski said. "I can tell you it wouldn't be like any other win."
Hendrick may have a string of consecutive wins this season, but Ford has a streak of its own to uphold. With Keselowski's teammate, Joey Logano, winning last year and Greg Biffle winning the two prior at Michigan, a Ford driver has won every race in a nearly two-year span.
With the stakes at an all-time high for Keselowski and a great run of results in the last two races, the No. 2 machine will be contending yet again at the end on Sunday.
Wild Card: Kyle Larson
Maybe this is just a special shout-out to what has been an excellent rookie season for the 21-year-old, but Kyle Larson is yet again a top contender on Sunday.
This week has already been a huge one for Larson, as he notched an eighth-place finish in Nationwide and learned that girlfriend Katelyn Sweet is pregnant, via his official Twitter account:
Currently sitting in the Chase Grid after 14 races, Larson might still need a win to solidify his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after 26 races. He has been in contention in nearly every race this season and has more experience on the track after a strong race on Saturday in the Nationwide Series.
Larson will start from the No. 12 position but was also the fastest car on the track in the final practice. If Larson can maintain that speed throughout the race and hold off some of the big dogs like Harvick and Gordon, the rookie might just guarantee his first Sprint Cup win.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: