NASCAR at Michigan 2014: Winners and Losers from the Quicken Loans 400
Sunday’s Father’s Day renewal of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway featured no shortage of yellow flags. Heck, even before the first lap was finished Brian Vickers spun his No. 55 into the wall.
You’d think that a track two miles long wouldn’t result in the amount of cautions and crashes we saw, but such is life when the wind is howling in Michigan.
Jimmie Johnson won his third race of the season (he's won three of his last four races) as he and the rest of the NASCAR crew crest the halfway point of the season.
There’s been nobody hotter in the past month than Johnson. He’s the biggest winner of the day, but there are other winners, not to mention some losers, from Father’s Day in Michigan.
Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson elected to pit with 36 laps to go. He forfeited the lead to a bunch of drivers who would, in one order or another, pit over the next 20 laps. Each new leader hit pit road, and Johnson ticked them off one by one.
It was a pit strategy that proved mighty valuable for Johnson. He earned his third win of the season and his first at Michigan International Speedway.
According to a tweet from Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson said, "I finally got one here!"
Loser: Brian Vickers
Brian Vickers had the quickest intermission of all the drivers. With a strong wind blowing around the third turn, he lost control of his car and drove into the wall. That wouldn't normally make news in the grand scheme of a NASCAR race, but when it happens before the completion of the first lap, it changes the perception.
Not all crashes are created equal.
"Going into Turn 3 and I expected to follow the 48 (of Jimmie Johnson) in there," Vickers told reporters after his release from the infield care center. "Just got really loose; I chased it all the way up to the wall and it just came around."
Vickers returned to the race on Lap 85, down 84 laps.
To his credit, he didn't give up on the day. He started 10th overall, but busting up his car was no way to leave Michigan.
Winner: Hendrick Motorsports
In some ways, this ties into the first slide. Hendrick Motorsports is habanero hot. Hendrick has won five points races in a row. Over that stretch, Johnson won three, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won one and Jeff Gordon won the other.
"We did it," tweeted Team Hendrick.
“They’ve been so good at Michigan but couldn’t close the deal,” team owner Rick Hendrick said to the media regarding Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. “That’s five in a row.”
And if winning those five races in a row weren't enough, all four of the organization's drivers—Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Gordon and Kasey Kahne—finished in the top seven at Michigan.
Winner: The Rookie
Not to be outdone by crashes early in the race, Kyle Larson got into a minor wreck at the race's start after beginning in 12th.
Larson spun out and avoided creating a major wreck. Kasey Kahne may have gotten the worst of it. Once Larson straightened out, he made it to pit road and got a move on. Larson would finish eighth after what can only be called an eventful trip.
"And can we talk about @KyleLarsonRacin?" tweeted NASCAR News. "Spins out, races to the front, gets a speeding penalty, now he's running 8th. That's pure talent."
Yes, and a great team behind him.
Loser: When M&Ms Melt in the Mouth and on the Track
If you're Kyle Busch, even when you send out apologetic emails you can't get any love.
Kyle was being Kyle, and he upset Kahne. As Pat DeCola of NASCAR.com reported, the two were involved in a collision at Pocono Raceway last weekend:
As a quick refresher, the two were racing hard and Busch tried to close in ahead of the No. 5, thinking Kahne would lift. Kahne, knowing he had the faster car because he had just passed the No. 18, did not, and the two cars collided and Kahne ended up in the wall, finishing 42nd.
Whether there was a snarky e-card or a dispassionate "my bad," Kahne was not pleased, telling reporters:
He sent me an email, then a text to ask if I got it. ... I told him I did, and that is how it went. I talked through every situation and scenario last year with him when we had them, and to this day, I've still raced him the exact same way. For him to do that, I knew it was coming as soon as he floored it in the corner. I was like 'He can’t. He can’t. He's going to run me right in the wall.' I think he was having a bad day, and just loses it. But as far as us talking, we haven't. He did write me an email, but I don’t really care anymore. I don’t care to talk to him or anything.
After a restart, Busch's car had no acceleration.
"It won’t even go; I can’t even step on the gas." Busch said, via a tweet from Kenny Bruce. "Something’s rubbing something or something’s cut."
Don't expect Kahne to fire up his GMail over this snafu.
Winner: Stewart-Haas Racing
Kevin Harvick started on the pole and managed to finish second again. Joining him was team captain Tony Stewart, who finished 11th; Kurt Busch, who finished 13th; and Danica Patrick, who finished 17th.
Seeing all three in the top 20 is a great way to leave Michigan.
Harvick, Stewart and Busch each had the lead at one point or another, the latter two leading late in the race before they had to pit for a splash of fuel.
Now go get yourself a Bloomin' Onion. Harvick won it for you via his top-10.
Loser: Austin Dillon
Austin Dillon led for two laps during the Quicken Loans 400 after starting from 19th. He finished 30th in the end.
Dillion had a rough go of it at Michigan. Sometimes this happens, per his tweet: "Wow I try to convince myself that luck isn't a factor but today it wasn't on our side great job by the #3team we had a solid car. #FlatTire"
Imagine this happening to you with 10 laps to go.