Johnson wins, teammates finish in top seven at Michigan
By Jessica Ruffin
BROOKLYN, Mich. – With nine laps to go, Jimmie Johnson seized the lead at Michigan International Speedway and held on to take the checkered flag for the third time this season. The first-place finish marked Johnson’s 69th Sprint Cup win and first career victory at the Irish Hills track. With three wins this season, Johnson now ranks first among Sprint Cup drivers with the most victories of 2014.
Sunday proved to be a good day for the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization, as Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Johnson in the top seven. Kahne rounded out the top five, while Gordon and Earnhardt finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Johnson’s win also gave Hendrick Motorsports its fifth straight victory of the 2014 season, the organization’s longest winning streak since 2007 when Johnson won the Cup championship. Hendrick Motorsports now has seven wins at the two-mile track.
Here is a look at how the Hendrick Motorsports teams fared at the Irish Hills track on Sunday.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: Fifth
RECAP: After qualifying 13th at the two-mile track, Kasey Kahne began his run to the front. However, his march was interrupted early on when his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS got loose and spun out on Lap 7. A trip to pit road showed that Kahne’s No. 5 Chevy SS had no damage and he was able to restart 33rd at Lap 12. Undeterred, Kahne maneuvered through the field and had climbed eight positions by Lap 50. He was the beneficiary of the free pass around the halfway point, which allowed him to get back on the lead lap. It seemed to be the momentum Kahne needed, as he moved into the 17th position by Lap 114. He continued to weave through competitors, cracking the top 12 by Lap 121. With 32 laps to go, Kahne cracked the top five, moving into the fourth position. He continued to advance his position in the top five, taking the runner-up spot with 22 laps to go. After passing a competitor off Turn 2 at Lap 183, Kahne took the lead at the Irish Hills track. He made a late-race green-flag pit stop for fuel and tires and finished fifth at Michigan, recording his second top-five finish of the season.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: Sixth
RECAP: Jeff Gordon began Sunday’s 400-mile event from the second position and ran in the top three for the opening laps. At Lap 19, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS took the lead at the Irish Hills track. As the race unfolded, Gordon consistently ran in the top two until a yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 75. He lined up his No. 24 Chevy SS third for the restart at Lap 78 and continued to race in the top five. A four-tire pit stop at Lap 104 sent Gordon back to 13th for the restart four laps later. However, the two-time Michigan winner was not content on racing outside the top 10. By Lap 159, he was back in the top ten and riding the seventh position. He finished sixth at the two-mile track.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: First
RECAP: Jimmie Johnson rolled off the grid seventh at the Michigan track on Sunday and immediately began his forward march to the front. By Lap 17, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS had cracked the top five and nine laps later, he was running third. A speedy 7.3-second pit stop at Lap 75 allowed Johnson to take the lead for the first time that day. He spent the next 29 laps running in the top two, alternating between the lead and runner-up position. Johnson dropped out of the top two after the restart at Lap 108, but continued to race in the top seven. After running in the back of the field for a while, Johnson elected to stay on track while the leaders made yellow-flag pit stops at Lap 149. The strategy worked, as Johnson moved into the second position for the restart at Lap 153. A dynamic restart put Johnson in the top position once again. A four-tire pit stop at Lap 168 set him back momentarily, but the fresh tires put the No. 48 Chevy SS back in the lead with nine laps to go. He continued to lead at the Irish Hills track for the remainder of the race, recording his third victory of the season.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/SUPERMAN CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: Seventh
RECAP: Dale Earnhardt Jr. began Sunday’s race at the Irish Hills track from the third position. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Superman Chevrolet SS continued to race in the top 10 for the first quarter of the 400-mile event. By Lap 65, the two-time Michigan winner was back in the top five. Crew chief Steve Letarte called Earnhardt onto pit road at Lap 126, remaining faithful to the No. 88 team’s two-tire strategy of the race. The pit stop sent Earnhardt to the back of the field for a while, but he didn’t stay there long. He elected to stay off pit road for a cycle of yellow-flag pit stops and was able to move into the fourth position with 45 laps to go. He finished seventh at the Irish Hills track.