Michigan provides Gordon's third win of 2014
By Gray Caldwell
BROOKLYN, Mich. – On Friday, Jeff Gordon earned his second consecutive pole. Sunday afternoon, he turned it into his third trip to Victory Lane.
Gordon, driving the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, took the checkered flag to win at Michigan International Speedway, marking his third victory of 2014.
“We had the car to win, our car was amazing,” Gordon said. “This is just unbelievably awesome.”
The win put him back in first place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt, meanwhile, crossed the finish line in fifth position, and Jimmie Johnson made it three Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the top 10, finishing ninth. Kasey Kahne was next in 16th position.
It marked the 227th win for Hendrick Motorsports, and meant the organization secured a sweep of the racetrack. Johnson also won at Michigan earlier this season.
“It’s Hendrick Motorsports and the job that they do,” Gordon said of the win. “Today was more than just a great race car, it took the whole team effort.”
Below is a closer look at how all four drivers fared in Sunday’s event:
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 GREAT CLIPS CHEVROLET SS
Recap: Kahne began the race in 15th position, and by Lap 23 he had fallen back to 23rd position. However, Kahne began picking up spots after taking fuel, right-side tires and a chassis adjustment during a Lap-20 competition caution. He restarted in 19th place, and by the next caution for debris on Lap 36, Kahne restarted in 14th. By Lap 58, Kahne had moved into the top 10, and as green-flag stops cycled through, he returned to that position on Lap 80. At the midway point of the race, he was in seventh. He was in the top 10 again by Lap 122, and on Lap 139 he took a green-flag pit stop for fuel, four tires and an air pressure adjustment. He was up to eighth by Lap 163, then moved all the way to second position during a green-flag pit stop cycle. On a restart with 27 laps to go, Kahne was in ninth place. He finished in 16th position.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
Recap: For the second consecutive Sunday, Jeff Gordon rolled off the grid in first place. Crew chief Alan Gustafson fired him up over the radio, saying, “Focus. Execution. All day long. We got this.” For the majority of the race up to the competition caution at Lap 20, Gordon ran in second place. After the restart, he stayed in the top five, and he eventually made his way all the way back to first place. He remained the leader at the halfway point of the race, and led 69 laps overall. After a caution, he restarted fifth, and he continued to run in the top five for the majority of the second half of the race. A green-flag pit stop on Lap 138 saw Gordon take four tires and fuel. The cycle left him in first place again at Lap 142. The next round of green-flag pit stops put Gordon in second place just before a caution flag on Lap 167. He restarted in second with 17 laps to go but quickly passed his competitor for first, where he stayed for the remainder of the race.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION CHEVROLET SS
Recap: After qualifying 30th, Johnson fell back to 35th, but then began to make his way back up the pack. He stayed out during a competition caution at Lap 20, and that allowed him to move up to 10th place. By the time the next caution flag flew, Johnson was the leader. He visited pit road as the leader during another caution on Lap 36, and when other leaders stayed on the track, crew chief Chad Knaus called an audible from the original two-tire plan, instead opting for four tires. At the restart on Lap 40, he was in 21st but quickly moved up to 15th. He continued working his way through the pack and as green-flag stops began to cycle through, he retook the lead on Lap 68. A broken shifter handle caused Johnson attempt to use vice grips to change gears, and he had to be pushed out of his pit box on his next stop. That caused him to go a lap down. The No. 48 Lowe’s team fixed Johnson’s shifter, however, and Johnson kept battling back up to 18th by Lap 126. At Lap 142, he was up to 11th position before making a green-flag pit stop for four tires and fuel on Lap 145. He was placed back on the lead lap on a caution on Lap 167, and on the restart with 27 laps to go, Johnson was in 14th but quickly gained two spots before another caution flag was waved. He finished the race in ninth place.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
Recap: Starting 25th, Earnhardt picked up 11 spots in 13 laps. He was in 12th position by Lap 17, but leaving pit road during a competition caution, he and a competitor made contact, causing him to return to pit road. He restarted 39th, and managed to avoid an incident in front of him that quickly followed the restart. He made it all the way to 19th by Lap 32, and eight laps later he was in 13th position. As green-flag stops began to cycle through, Earnhardt took the lead on Lap 68 before heading to pit road himself. At Lap 80, Earnhardt was back in the top 10, and at the midway point of the race he was running sixth. He continued moving up, battling all the way to second position by Lap 122. He maintained top-five position for the majority of the second half of the race, and on a restart with 27 laps to go, was in sixth position. He crossed the finish line in fifth.