The rundown: Commentary on all 43 finishers
June 15, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
Driver-by-driver news and notes for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400
1. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. With his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season, Johnson and crew knocked another track off the oh-fer list with his first win at Michigan International Speedway. As overheard on in-car audio on RaceView, Johnson keyed his radio afterward to signify the feat: "Finally got one here. I didn't know if it was ever going to come." See his Victory Lane interview here.
2. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. If you count the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Sunday's second-place effort at Michigan marked Harvick's fourth runner-up finish in the last six weeks. The succession of near-misses led to a extraordinarily brief and tense post-race news conference. "The car was fast, just wound up on the wrong side of all the strategy," said Harvick, who turned the race's fastest lap (195.913 mph on Lap 14), led the most laps (63) and moved from 19th to second in the final 20 laps. "We finished second, and that's it." See his race highlights here.
3. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. With his third consecutive finish in the top three, Keselowski tied Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the Sprint Cup Series lead in top-fives with his seventh of the year. "We didn't run as well as we wanted to, but we certainly didn't run poorly," the Michigan native said. "Like I said, it was a good day, not a great day. Third is nothing to hang your hat on." See his race highlights here.
4. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. The Wisconsin native closed out a banner weekend, following up his Saturday victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with a fourth-place run in the main event Sunday. He remains the only Richard Childress Racing driver to score a Sprint Cup top-five finish this season. See highlights of his Nationwide victory here.
5. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The best elixir for a 42nd-place finish the week before at Pocono came in the form of a fifth-place run for the No. 5 team, overcoming an early spin. Kahne remains mired back in 19th place in Sprint Cup standings, but it's a two-spot improvement heading to Sonoma Raceway next weekend. See video of Kahne's early spin here.
6. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The four-time Sprint Cup champion kept his lead in the series standings, notching his series-best 11th top-10 finish of the season. After starting second, leading 36 of the 200 laps and rallying at the end, Gordon felt like there was even more to be gained. "Yeah, sixth is not really indicative of the race car or what I felt like we were capable of," he said, "but we'll certainly take it." See Gordon's post-race interview here.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Earnhardt had a Superman look on his No. 88 car for the second time this season, but a second straight victory was not in the cards. A sluggish 11.2-second final pit stop for just two tires and fuel left Dale Jr. in need of a late-race rally. "We should have finished three or four spots better than that," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That upsets you a little bit." See his race highlights here.
8. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. An eventful day for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to say the least. The rear bumper of Larson's No. 42 was knocked off in a Lap 7 incident, then a late pit-road speeding penalty forced him to mount a comeback for his seventh top-10 finish of the year. "I hate it, but still somewhat happy to get a top 10," Larson said, "just disappointed I let my team down." See his race highlights here.
Kyle Larson (42) and Kasey Kahne were caught up in a Lap 7 incident, but both stormed back to seal top-10 finishes.
9. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Already a two-time winner this year, Logano had thoughts of a third in mind by leading two times for 29 laps. But the No. 22 Ford lost momentum after getting jammed in the middle of a three-wide battle on the last restart. "We weren't able to capitalize after that," Logano said. "I think we fell back to maybe eighth or ninth and that's where we rode the rest of the day."
10. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer possessed the top-finishing Toyota in the 43-car field, but that doesn't mean he was pleased to see seven Chevrolets in the top 10 ahead of him: "Just incredible. That deal cycles, but it sure seems like its pretty unfair right now." See his race highlights here.
11. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Smoke incurred some damage to the nose of his No. 14 after bounding into the rear of Kyle Larson's car on a late-race restart. That set Stewart to wagging his finger at the rookie as the two circled each other. Stewart has just one top-10 in his last seven races. See his race highlights here.
12. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray led twice for four laps, but a scrape with the wall with 40 laps remaining was cause for alarm. "Look at my right side. I knocked my fender in. I might have a flat." He soldiered on, finishing just one spot behind where he started.
13. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch led 16 laps in the late stages, surrendering the top spot on his final pit stop. But the handling went away for the former Cup champion, leaving his car oversteering for the home stretch. "Even if they threw the yellow, we're screwed," Busch told his crew with 13 laps to go. "I have no idea how we got this loose." For in-car audio for the remainder of the season, subscribe to RaceView.
14. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Despite leading Laps 189 and 190 before making his final stop, the seven-time victor from last season remained winless in 2014. "Just don't have it -- I don't know how else to explain it," Kenseth said post-race. "We just can't fix it on pit road."
15. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Newman stayed put in 11th place in the Sprint Cup standings, but he's gone five straight races without leading a lap. Worse, the two-time Michigan winner has led just 10 laps in 15 races this season. His Sunday finish was right on par with his season average of 14.9. See his race highlights here.
16. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Score one for the underdog with Allgaier's best finish of his 19-race-old Sprint Cup Series career. Allgaier stayed consistent after starting 17th and never fell out of the top 20 all day.
17. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. In securing her best finish since a career-best seventh place last month at Kansas, Patrick clearly had to work for it. After 400 miles, she held the distinction for most green-flag passes in the race -- 110. See her race highlights here.
18. Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 12 Ford, Team Penske. The Colombian driver chalked up a learning experience in his return to NASCAR racing and his first exposure to the 2014 rules package in his season debut. It's information he hopes will carry over in his next Sprint Cup race, next month at Indianapolis. "I understand the car a little bit more and how everything works with the team and where we stand with the setup," Montoya said, "so I think that will be pretty useful."
Juan Pablo Montoya, left, and Justin Allgaier tried blue cars on for size with solid results at Michigan.
19. Trevor Bayne, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. Bayne matched his best finish of the season (Texas), making just his sixth appearance of the season on the Sprint Cup side. In calling the day "uneventful," the NASCAR Nationwide Series regular said his team battled against an ill-handling car for much of the 400-miler. "It was OK, but it's not what we want," Bayne said.
20. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. The Biff stood at the head of the three-driver class for Roush Fenway Racing on Sunday, but any time spent listening to his radio made it clear that the results were subpar at what used to be an RFR stronghold. "I've never been so embarrassed in my life," Biffle said shortly after a 128th-lap restart. Biffle hasn't led a lap or placed better than 16th in the last five races. For in-car audio for the remainder of the season, subscribe to RaceView.
21. Michael Annett, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. Sunday's finish wasn't Annett's best of the season, but it did carry some positive significance. Just a week away from his 28th birthday, Annett was the biggest mover of the race, improving 16 spots from his starting position. Michigan continued a modest trend of six straight races for the No. 7 team of finishing ahead of where it started.
22. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. The Dinger continued a recent habit of four consecutive races with finishes on the fringes of the top 20, but may have ruffled the most feathers with one Danica Patrick. "Is she stupid? I'm not gonna give her the bottom. An idiot," Allmendinger bristled in a Lap 174 fight for real estate on the 2-mile oval. To listen to similar audio for the remainder of the season, subscribe to RaceView.
23. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. A mid-pack finish had Edwards, the Coors Light Pole Award winner in this race a year ago, apologizing to his crew on the cool-down lap. While his victory earlier in the season at Bristol gives him security in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff picture, Edwards said "we've just got to get better as a group. That's the way it is."
24. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. The Mears Gang has found a measure of consistency in recent weeks, but it's not the most desirable sort. In the last five races, Mears has logged finishes in the 23rd to 26th range after three consecutive top-20 performances. Sunday, Mears fought a vibration early, rising oil/water temps late and loose conditions much of the day.
25. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Ambrose, a former Michigan pole-starter, battled for rear grip much of the race, fighting a loose condition on corner entry and exit, then a tight condition through the center of the turns. There's reason for optimism next week for the road-course expert at the twisty California layout of Sonoma Raceway.
26. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Like many drivers, Gilliland combated ill-handling conditions, telling crew chief Frank Kerr, "I'm trying, Frank, but it's just too loose." Despite the trouble, Gilliland managed to register his best finish in the last six weeks.
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse's Fusion absorbed some damage in the Lap 7 tangle with Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne, but he was unable to recover nearly as well. He remained one of just five full-time competitors who have failed to lead a lap yet in 2014. See video of the early contact here.
28. Cole Whitt, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing. With his dad and former racer Tobin Whitt watching from atop the team's pit box on Father's Day, Cole Whitt settled for a familar spot in the finishing order Sunday. Whitt has landed in the 27th to 30th span in each of the last five Sprint Cup events.
29. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin's brief two-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a 29th-place thud -- right where he started his Michigan day. His coming-together with Aric Almirola to cause the next-to-last caution period thwarted any chance of a comeback, sending him down four spots in the Sprint Cup standings to 12th. See the Lap 122 wreck that snarled Hamlin, Almirola here. | See his race highlights here.
Aric Almirola (43) slides near the Turn 4 wall after contact with Denny Hamlin past the halfway mark.
30. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate led two laps -- his first since finishing a season-best ninth in the Daytona 500 -- but a flat right-rear tire within the final 10 laps cost him two spots in the Sprint Cup standings. "That's our year, man. Gosh," Dillon lamented over the team radio.
31. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Getting caught up in a spin past halfway with Denny Hamlin was bad enough for the driver of The King's No. 43, but a pit-road speeding penalty and getting stuck in the infield grass compounded the problems. "Reverse won't work. I tried to put it in to back it out of the grass, and it just snapped," Almirola told his crew before getting pulled out of his predicament and continuing to a three-laps-down result.
32. Reed Sorenson, No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. There hasn't been a ton to crow about in the No. 36 camp of late, but at least the team has found its way to the checkered flag more frequently. After failing to finish in four out of five races from Darlington to Charlotte, the month of June has been far more kind with three straight instances of running at the finish.
33. Josh Wise, No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing. The power of the Internet may have brought NASCAR's resident Ironman Triathlete new-found sponsorship, but it's failed to dislodge him from the 36th-place rank that he's held in Sprint Cup standings since March. Either way, it's difficult to discredit a driver who is so accessible as NASCAR.com's F-Post found out in its latest episode.
34. Brett Moffitt, No. 66 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. The former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver's second career Sprint Cup start didn't go quite as well as the first, two weeks ago at Dover. Moffitt, who looped his No. 66 Camry in practice, did much the same in the race, managing to avoid contact and bringing his car home in one piece.
35. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing. The Iowa native's trend in the Sprint Cup standings is a negative one, slipping one spot each week since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. On the plus side, Cassill has made the field for each race after coming up short in Coors Light Pole Qualifying at Phoenix and Las Vegas earlier in the season. Sunday was his 130th Sprint Cup start.
36. JJ Yeley, No. 44 Chevrolet, Xxxtreme Motorsports. Incremental gains have been the story of the season for Yeley thus far. He improved upon his previous season-best finish of 38th last weekend at Pocono, marking his second straight occasion of running at the finish after three consecutive DNFs.
37. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing. Just when it seemed a corner had been turned with two consecutive top-10 efforts for the Colorado-based organization, bad luck struck again for Truex in a Lap 7 run-in with Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson off the exit of Turn 2. His No. 78 team patched the nose of his car, but Truex was unable to regain track position for the remainder of the race. "When you have an accident that early, it sure makes for a long day," Truex said. "I mean a very long day."
38. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. A prolonged slide in the 104th lap was the most illustrative aspect of an up-and-down day for Ragan, who was also slowed by a vibration for a loose left-rear tire. The Georgia native failed to recover, unable to match the season-best result of 18th from the previous week at Pocono.
39. David Stremme, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Finishing five laps off the pace, Stremme was unable to match his season-best of 35th place, but he did manage to put the No. 33 team into the black in terms of finishing races. Sunday marked the third time he reached the checkered flag, against two DNFs.
40. Alex Bowman, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Bowman was one of just two retirees from the race, going back to the garage area after slapping the wall in the 110th lap. The DNF was the third for the Sprint Cup rookie in his last six races.
41. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch's No. 18 slowed dramatically on a Lap 79 restart, slowed by what his JGR crew would later discover to be a left-rear hub malfunction: "It won't even go. I can't even step on the gas," a frantic Busch said before pulling his Camry behind the pit wall. He was the biggest drop of the day among the top 10 in Sprint Cup standings, sliding four places to 10th.
Brian Vickers returned to the track after wholesale repairs -- including a makeshift car number -- in the wake of his Lap 1 crash.
42. Brian Vickers, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. A nightmarish opening-lap crash virtually ended Vickers' day before it started. He recovered to finish the 200-lap race, albeit 90 laps down with a patched-up car. After recording results of 43rd and 42nd in a three-week stretch, Vickers has plummeted from a high point of eighth in Sprint Cup standings after the Coca-Cola 600 to his current place of 18th.
43. Travis Kvapil, No. 32 Ford, Go FAS Racing. One week after notching his best finish of the season (a 29th at Pocono), Kvapil posted his worst after his involvement in the Lap 1 crash. Kvapil slowed to avoid Brian Vickers' skidding car, but said he almost slowed too much, collecting the No. 55. "I feel horrible," Kvapil said. "We started last and had plenty of time."