Earnhardt Jr. Wins At Michigan, Ends Winless Streak
Posted by: Dave Thompson, follow @phillyfan17
June 17, 2012
It’s over. No, actually it is finally over. No, not the rain that delayed the start of the race roughly two hours, but the winless streak is no more.
After four years of frustration, 143 races later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. This was no rain shortened race or fuel mileage win, Earnhardt dominated the field to win the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
It has been nearly four years to the day that Earnhardt won a Sprint Cup race at this very track on June 15, 2008. In that race, Earnhardt did not have nearly the dominant car he had on Sunday, in fact, the win came by winning the fuel mileage game.
The fans at Michigan International Speedway were on the feet throughout the closing laps in anticipation of his winless streak finally coming to an end. His pit crew erupted as the No. 88 Batman The Dark Knight Rises took the checkered flag as they each race to the pit road wall to celebrate as Earnhardt completed his victory burnout.
Several drivers, including his Hendrick Motorsports teammates and his friend Brad Keselowski quickly made their way to Victory Lane to congratulate NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Earnhardt led 95 of the 200 laps including the final 30 laps in the 400-mile event.
Unfortunately for Earnhardt, team owner Rick Hendrick was unable to be at the track to witness the victory first hand. Earnhardt did take a few minutes before he exited the car in Victory Lane to speak with Hendrick via cell phone.
“He was just upset he couldn’t be here,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt made sure to acknowledge his loyal fan base for sticking by him throughout the winless streak.
“They have stuck behind me for all these years,” he said. ”I know exactly what they have been thinking about and how long they’ve been wanting us to get to victory lane, so this one is for them. I appreciate their loyalty and support. We wouldn’t have made it back to victory lane without it.”
“We just had a really good car. It was real fast,” Earnhardt said. “This is pretty amazing. Those last 15 laps were the longest laps ever. I don’t know what to think about it just yet.”
Crew chief Steve Letarte sat calm and collected on the pit box until his driver took the checkered flag. “This one is up there,” Letarte said of his 11th career victory. “Dale Jr. drove a good race. This crew hadn’t won in a long time. They deserve it.”
Earnhardt struggled early in the race, but gave credit to Letarte for making the correct adjustments to get his car “dialed-in”.
Earnhardt started the race 17th, but by the midway point was in a battle for the lead with Tony Stewart. Earnhardt took the lead from Stewart on Lap 110 and dominated the remainder of the race. He pulled away from Stewart after the final round of green-flag pitstops on Lap 173 to win by a margin of more than five seconds.
Matt Kenseth finished in third-place and remained the points leader over Earnhardt. Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Johnson overcame an engine change that forced him to the rear of the field. His fifth place finish moves him to fourth-place in the standings behind Biffle.
In other news from the race, Joe Gibbs Racing had the roughest day of all the teams with all three drivers having problems on the track. Kyle Busch was the first one with problems when his No. 18 had engine issues for the third consecutive race. Busch did return to the track but finished the day 32nd. Joey Logano lost control of his car while trying to pass the slower car of David Gilliland and slammed the outside wall. Logano would finish 35th.
Just seven laps later, Denny Hamlin lost control of his car and slid onto the inside apron. As Hamlin approached pit road, his car burst into flames. Safety workers rushed to extinguish the fire as Hamlin quickly made his way from the car.
Kurt Busch had a disappointing return from his one-week suspension. Busch spun on Lap 2 and again later in the race and finished 30th.
Polesitter Marcos Ambrose was strong early in the race leading 15 laps, but faded slightly in the later half of the race to finish 9th.
Results of the Quicken Loans 400 at MIS:
|1||17||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||DietMtnDew/TheDarkKnightRises/NtnlGuard Chev||200||48||5||RUNNING||5||95|
|2||8||14||Tony Stewart||Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet||200||43||1||RUNNING||1||18|
|3||6||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford EcoBoost Ford||200||42||1||RUNNING||1||17|
|4||3||16||Greg Biffle||3M/Salute Ford||200||41||1||RUNNING||3||38|
|5||10||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe’s Chevrolet||200||39||RUNNING|
|6||28||24||Jeff Gordon||DuPont Chevrolet||200||39||1||RUNNING||2||4|
|7||13||15||Clint Bowyer||5-hour Energy Toyota||200||38||1||RUNNING||1||1|
|8||21||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Target Chevrolet||200||37||1||RUNNING||1||4|
|9||1||9||Marcos Ambrose||Stanley Ford||200||36||1||RUNNING||4||15|
|10||2||29||Kevin Harvick||Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet||200||34||RUNNING|
|11||42||99||Carl Edwards||Fastenal Ford||200||33||RUNNING|
|12||16||56||Martin Truex Jr.||NAPA Auto Parts Toyota||200||32||RUNNING|
|13||25||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite Dodge||200||32||1||RUNNING||1||3|
|14||19||1||Jamie McMurray||McDonald’s Chevrolet||200||31||1||RUNNING||1||1|
|15||5||39||Ryan Newman||US ARMY Chevrolet||199||29||RUNNING|
|16||31||47||Bobby Labonte||Charter Toyota||199||28||RUNNING|
|17||15||43||Aric Almirola||Medallion Ford||199||27||RUNNING|
|18||32||83||Landon Cassill||Burger King Toyota||199||26||RUNNING|
|19||20||22||AJ Allmendinger||Shell Pennzoil Dodge||199||25||RUNNING|
|20||24||13||Casey Mears||Valvoline NEXTGEN Ford||199||24||RUNNING|
|21||33||31||Jeff Burton||Caterpillar Chevrolet||199||24||1||RUNNING||1||1|
|22||18||27||Paul Menard||Menards/Duracell Chevrolet||199||22||RUNNING|
|23||38||34||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports Ford||199||21||RUNNING|
|24||22||33||Austin Dillon(i)||American Ethanol Chevrolet||198||20||RUNNING|
|25||36||36||Dave Blaney||Seal Wrap Chevrolet||198||20||1||RUNNING||1||1|
|26||39||93||Travis Kvapil||Burger King Toyota||197||18||RUNNING|
|27||35||38||David Gilliland||Long John Silver’s Ford||197||18||1||RUNNING||1||1|
|28||12||78||Regan Smith||Furniture Row Chevrolet||197||16||RUNNING|
|29||14||55||Mark Martin||Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota||195||15||Engine|
|30||26||51||Kurt Busch||Phoenix Construction Services, Inc. Chevrolet||194||14||RUNNING|
|31||40||32||Ken Schrader||Federated Auto Parts Ford||193||13||RUNNING|
|32||34||18||Kyle Busch||Snickers Toyota||157||12||RUNNING|
|33||4||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance Chevrolet||151||11||Accident|
|34||11||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Office Toyota||132||10||Accident|
|35||9||20||Joey Logano||The Home Depot Toyota||125||9||Accident|
|36||41||10||Tony Raines||Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet||68||8||Vibration|
|37||43||49||JJ Yeley||America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents Toyota||67||8||1||Brakes||1||1|
|38||27||98||Michael McDowell||Presbyterian Healthcare Ford||41||6||Vibration|
|39||29||19||Mike Bliss(i)||Humphrey Smith Racing, LLC Toyota||35||0||Overheating|
|40||37||87||Joe Nemechek(i)||AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota||32||0||Vibration|
|41||23||23||Scott Riggs||North TX Pipe Chevrolet||27||3||Power Steering|
|42||30||26||Josh Wise #||MDS Transport Ford||9||2||Engine|
|43||7||21||Trevor Bayne(i)||Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford||7||0||Engine|
Posted: June 17th, 2012
Categories: Nascar Sprint Cup Series, Results.
Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, marcos ambrose, Matt Kenseth, Michigan International Speedway, Quicken Loans 400, Tony Stewart