We saw a very interesting Michigan race Sunday. Who would have ever believed that after 400 miles and 66 laps led by the Hendrick Motorsports teams, their best finish would be 28th by Jimmie Johnson? Quite honestly it’s very rare for that to happen to the Hendrick teams at any race track we go to.
I think the thing that made Sunday so interesting was all the strategies. You had drivers staying out. You had drivers doing fuel only.
After five straight championships and 63 wins, you won’t ever find me second-guessing crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 bunch. However, when they hit pit road at Lap 132 with 68 laps to go and took four tires — which put them back in either 19th or 20th for the restart — it had me scratching my head. That’s a long way to go and only a short time to get there.
Then the last pit stop, which was only a two-tire stop, was a little slow and got them behind. Jimmie even said it in his post-race comments that he had to run the car so hard there at the end, he might have over-worked that right front tire, which may have caused him to hit the wall with three laps to go.
We had said earlier in the week that we definitely were watching two groups Sunday — the Ford camp and the Toyota camp. The reason for Ford was simple: Michigan has historically been a track that Fords have been strong at. They’ve made a lot of trips to Victory Lane there in the past. This year and this new car has been somewhat of a struggle for Ford, so they looked to this race to maybe turn things around.
Greg Biffle delivered Sunday for Ford with the win. Not only is it car owner Jack Roush’s home track but a Ford also sat on the pole and had three Ford’s in the top 10. In addition to all that, Greg’s win gave Ford its all-time 1,000th victory in NASCAR.
For the Toyota camp, of course the issue was the engines. We know the story out of Pocono the week before was how Toyota pulled the power back. Their drivers weren’t all that thrilled with it and for the first time in 2013 two weeks ago, there wasn’t a Toyota in the top five.
All of that changed Sunday at Michigan with Clint Bowyer finishing third and Kyle Busch finishing fourth. In fact, there were four Toyota’s in the top seven. So it looks like they brought the power back nicely and seem to have a good start on their road to recovery.