Junior ends 4 year losing skein

- June 17th, 2012

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Say goodbye to the most wrenching losing streak in NASCAR history.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Quicken Loans 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway after four years and two days of utter frustration for the most famous son in racing.
The celebration was immediate and boisterous as more than 100,000 stock car racing fans were on their feet as Earnhardt drove the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet across the start finish line on the 200th lap of the afternoon.
How long was since Earnhardt won?
Well when he won last at Michigan on June 15, 2008, George W. Bush was still the president of the United States and Barrack Obama was the junior senator from Illinois.
In NASCAR terms it was 144 races — four full 36-race seasons.
As one media wag mused as Earnhardt was doing a victory burnout: “Well now I guess we can tackle peace in the middle east.”
For Earnhardt it was relief, angst and joy all tied with a neat little bow.
“Those last 15 laps were the longest laps ever; that was the worst feeling, thinking that something might go wrong; it was terrifying” he said after emerging from his car to a sea of well wishers in Victory Lane. “The last time I won here four years ago it was a fuel mileage race, this time we just whupped ‘em.
“To do it for my fans, they stuck behind me for all these years … I know exactly what they’ve been thinking about and how long they’ve been wanting us to get to Victory Lane.
“So this was for them. I appreciate their loyalty and support. We wouldn’t have made it Victory Lane without (them).”
It was a race that Earnhardt dominated, leading 95 of 200 laps.
At every re-start when he was challenged, fist early in the race by Greg Biffle, then by teammate Jeff Gordon and at the end by Tony Stewart, Earnhardt just got stronger.
In the and he all but coasted to the win, beating Stewart to the line by 5.393 seconds.
Earnhardt said that he didn’t think that Sunday would be his day in the sun.
“I woke up yesterday thinking that we weren’t going to have a very good race,” he said. “It turned out to be the exact opposite.”
The win immediately pushes Earnhardt into the favourite’s role to win his first Sprint Cup championship after 13 years in NASCAR’s top circuit.
He closed to within four points of championship leader Matt Kenseth who finished third on Sunday.
Lost in the discussion of Earnhardt’s lengthy losing skein was the fact that over that period he wasn’t exactly running at the back of the pack with seven heart breaking second place finishes and that prior to the start of the skid he had 18 Cup victories.
It was poignant that Earnhardt’s win should come on Father’s Day as he has always had to deal with the legacy of his father — arguably NASCAR’s most famous driver — who notched seven championships and 76 wins in his career before his tragic death in the 2001 Daytona 500.

FINISH LINES

The decision by NASCAR and Goodyear to change to harder left side tires for Sunday’s race to bring down speeds worked.After three days of practice at Michigan’s two mile oval where speeds were consistently above 200 m.p.h. the new tires brought speeds down to the 190 m.p.h. range for the race. … It was a case of worst to first for D.J. Kennington at the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Clarington 200 at the Speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park Saturday in the No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge. Kennington started last but was in the top five after just 27 laps. Mark Dilley finished second in the No. 02 PartSource/BDI/Leland Ford with points leaders J.R. Fitzpatrick third in the No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet. … Audi made history at the Le Mans 24 Hours by claiming the overall win a hybrid car — the Audi R18 E-Tron — with drivers Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler.
dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

Top 10 finishers at Quicken Loans 400

1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet
2 Tony Stewart Chevrolet
3 Matt Kenseth Ford
4 Greg Biffle Ford
5 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet
6 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 200
7 Clint Bowyer Toyota 200 .
8 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 200
9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 200
10 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet

SIDE 1

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart stepped into a big, smelly pile of controversy in the wake of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.
Stewart, who finished second in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, lashed out when he was asked about his reaction to Earnhardt’s first win in four seasons of Sprint Cup racing.
“It’s not a national holiday, guys,” he said in a post race media interview. “I mean this morning (Earnhardt’s team) were celebrating his fourth anniversary of his last win.
“So I guess we are all going to go into mourning now that he has broken that string; so what else we are all supposed to think.”
It was a much different reaction from Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth, who finished third in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“I don’t know what it means for him personally to get that win but I know that it had been a burden for him with fans and the media always talking about it,” Kenseth said. “This year you could see that it was only going to be a matter of time before he won. The No. 88 team has had a ton of speed all season.
“He was knocking on the door and you knew sooner of later he was going to kick it down.”
— Dean McNulty

SIDE 2

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Dodge is still in the racing business, but for how long is the big question mark.
Ralph Gilles, vice president for product design at Chrysler, told FOXSports.com on Sunday that the company is not yet ready to confirm whether it will be back on the NASCAR circuit next season.
Ever since Roger Penske announced in March that his Penske Racing team — the lone Dodge squad in Sprint Cup — would be running Fords next season, there has been speculation that Chrysler would pull the plug on its stock car program.
Gilles said that high level discussions are ongoing about the Dodge brand’s racing future.
“We’re looking at everything,” he said. “We’re looking at potential teams. We’re looking at … how we go to motorsports next year.
“But really it wouldn’t be fair to the people working on the project right now to talk about it. All I can say right now is stay tuned, we’ll try to get the word out before the end of summer.”
The company did unveil a new Dodge Charger for 2013 — if it comes back to Cup racing — at Las Vegas in the spring and Gilles said that project is going ahead.
“We have to. We kind of have to hedge our bets,” he said. “We’re doing a little bit of the development where a lot of the stuff has been done already — a lot of the aero work is already locked in. We’re just kind of standing pat right now.”
Dodge also supports a lot of other stock car racing series as well, including the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series where three of the four past champions were Dodge teams.
Gilles said that for this year the company is committed to giving Penske the best support possible in its effort at a Cup championship.
“We’re committed to win the Cup,” he said. “We really want to get Brad (Keselowski) or A.J. (Allmendinger) up there. We’re committed to that to the bitter end.”
— Dean McNulty

Categories: Motorsports

Subscribe to the post

Leave a comment

 characters available