You hear us say repeatedly that the fastest car doesn’t always win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Last Sunday at Michigan proved that statement right once again. The class of the field was the Hendrick Motorsports cars. Combined they led 66 laps, but at the end of the day the highest-finishing car out of the four was Jimmie Johnson in 28th place.
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I felt so bad for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday. He was going for a Father’s Day repeat after winning this race a year ago. He had led 34 laps when of all things a Hendrick engine started going sour on them. That is very rare and I believe it was the only engine issue all day across all 43 competitors. It also cost him three spots in the points, dropping Dale Jr. to seventh. It probably couldn’t have come at a worse time as he is admittedly not a fan of road course racing like we are going to have this weekend.
Sunday also saw some highs and some lows. Let’s start with a couple highs and those have to be Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. Kevin just keeps on keeping on. He came home second Sunday at Michigan. He also moved up one spot to fourth in the points.
Tony Stewart’s hot streak continues. Think back for a second to Charlotte in late May when he was 21st in points before we ran that race. He’s had a win plus three top fives and four straight top-10 finishes. After Sunday’s race, Tony jumped another three spots in the points and all of a sudden he’s now in 10th position. That sure is a far cry from a couple months ago when all the talk was about Tony probably missing this year’s Chase.
Tony’s teammate Danica Patrick was another of the highs on Sunday. She had her best finish since Martinsville back in early April with a 13th-place showing at Michigan. She’s had some tough times since finishing 12th at Martinsville and Sunday will definitely help improve her confidence.
This was her first NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Michigan, so she has now been to every race track we go to in some type of race car. The thing that impresses me about Danica lately is she is keeping herself out of trouble. The way you learn and move forward is by making laps. There is nothing that replaces that valuable seat time. You can’t learn when you are in the garage and the crew is trying to repair the front or back of the car. I also want to mention she’s a good road racer, so keep an eye on her as we head to Sonoma this week.
On the lows at Michigan, the top of my list has to be that No. 11 car. I really now believe that Denny Hamlin’s chances are slim for making the Chase. They are basically so far behind in points that they are two races outside the top 20 in points. They had a very dismal day at Michigan.
They ended up changing a right front shock and finished 30th. It totally surprised me how poorly they ran — especially when you consider their teammates finished fourth and sixth. About the only thing they can salvage now out of the 2013 season is try to make some trips to Victory Lane.
In addition to the Hendrick woes at Michigan, Kasey Kahne has now slid outside the top 10 to the 12th spot after he blew a tire and hit the wall. Kasey said in his post-race comments that he never felt it coming. He said it simply went "boom" and the car turned right into the wall. Unless Kasey can get himself back inside the top 10 before the end of the Richmond race in September, the win he already has this season will play a major role of whether he can capture one of those two wildcard spots.