Complete analysis: Michigan
August 17, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
1. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Jeff Gordon had a fast car in practice and qualifying, and that didn't change on race day. He spent most of the race battling for the lead against Joey Logano, leading 68 laps against Logano's 86. He was up front once again on a Lap 184 restart -- one of Gordon's admitted weak spots -- when crew chief Alan Gustafson told him to "go hard." The green flag proved he'd finally learned to keep Logano -- who Gordon said was "screwing up the restarts" -- at his heels.
2. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
Harvick was happy with the way his car was driving for the early laps of the race, but told his crew "it just doesn't have speed." They must have found it for him, because Harvick was right there in the mix with Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon shortly after. Harvick took advantage of a faltering Joey Logano to sneak into second place on the final restart.
3. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske
For much of the race, it was Logano vs. Gordon. Both the driver and his crew brought their A-game for the event near manufacturer Ford's hometown, Detroit. The No. 22 had the fastest driver time and crew time for four-tire pit stops with 50 laps to go. He led 86 laps, the most of the race, but couldn't pull ahead on the restart when it mattered most, barely holding on to third place. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
4. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Paul Menard took advantage of the Lap 184 restart to put his name in contention for the win, edging into Logano's place in a battle with Gordon and Harvick. He ran his fastest lap of the race on Lap 188, maneuvering all over the track to get into the top five for the fourth time this season.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
An early incident on pit road between Kyle Larson and Earnhardt wasn't how either driver imagined starting off the race. Earnhardt had worked his way up near the top 10 from his 25th-place starting position when the extra time spent on pit road repairing the damage sent him back to the tail of the field. The challenge wasn't too much for Earnhardt to overcome, as evidenced by his series-best 11th top-five finish of the season.
6. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing
Once again, Clint Bowyer earned a solid finish without much fanfare. He moved steadily forward from his starting position of 19th, avoiding any accidents en route and moving up one position to 10th in the points standings. If he does get into the Chase, however, the No. 15 crew will need to perform a bit better: Among four-tire pit stops, the average total time for the team was 41.3 seconds, 15th-best. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
7. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Hamlin just couldn't get the right setup under him in the Pure Michigan 400. "We just seem to get freer as we go," he said over the radio. His crew did their best to help him out, nailing one four-tire pit stop in 12.6 seconds -- second-best among caution stops. The top-10 finish seals the deal for the No. 11 team in the Chase, so long as they attempt to qualify for the remaining regular season races. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
8. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske
When Keselowski blew a tire while leading on Lap 168, he was the first to know what happened. "Flat," he said over the radio as soon as you heard the pop. As he nursed his car back to pit road, he was already assessing the damage for his crew. He had not yet made his final pit stop, so his team was able to repair the car, put on four tires and add Sunoco Green E15 while under yellow. He fought his way back into the top 10 using his restart prowess. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
9. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
There was colorful language aplenty on the No. 48 pit box when crew chief Chad Knaus realized the cars behind Johnson weren't following him down pit road under the race's fourth caution. He'd pit with the lead and restart 21st. "We (expetive) it up there, Jimmie. Sorry," Knaus told his driver. Johnson then lost his shifter handle, requesting a vice grip from his crew. Once he got it, he was a distracted driver until following the advice of his crew chief: Don't worry about the shifter; it's not worth a crash. They replaced the shifter halfway through the race, putting Johnson at the rear on a Lap 109 restart, but leave it to Six-Time to salvage a top 10 anyway. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
10. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
It wasn't the day Greg Biffle was hoping for to get him into the Chase, but he did manage to slide into 10th place with a few laps to go. The team will head to Bristol with their eighth top 10 of the season, but their best chance for a win behind them. "Better, but we've still got a lot of work to do here," crew chief Matt Puccia said as Biffle passed the checkered flag. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
11. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Newman led three laps under the competition caution after his team took a gamble on staying out, one of three times at the point for 14 laps led. Unfortunately, six-time Champion Jimmie Johnson also made that decision, and Newman's lead was short-lived. With a desperate need to keep his points total as high as possible to make the Chase, Newman found himself battling Johnson once again with five laps to go, but was unable to hold him off. In the aftermath, he watched Greg Biffle take the final spot in the top 10.
12. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports
Coming off a heartbreaking runner-up finish at Watkins Glen, Ambrose's best track to get a win and into the Chase, he came to Michigan looking for redemption. His Pure Michigan 400 finish was his fourth-best at the track, following up a disappointing 25th earlier in the season. He started 20th in both races.
13. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing
With only five better performances so far this season, Allmendinger's confidence boost from last week's win at Watkins Glen served him well at Michigan. His average finish at the track is 20.3, and his top-15 finish in the Pure Michigan 400 was enough to lock him into the Chase if he attempts to qualify for the remaining Sprint Cup events.
14. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing
Gaining their driver positions on more than one pit stop, McMurray's No. 1 crew was close to being number one among average pit stop times. Both crew and driver were third-best on average times, for a total of 39.1 seconds -- behind only top-five finishers Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
It's not often Stenhouse finishes ahead of Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards, but the No. 17 avoided the wreck that ensnarled nine cars on Lap 25. The sophomore was able to remain steady in the front half of the pack ahead of some of the sport's seasoned veterans.
16. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Kahne is one of the winless drivers who is desperately looking for a victory. He looked like he was in a position to have it, running in second when Brad Keselowski hit the wall and brought out a caution flag. But in the myriad of restarts, Kahne couldn't keep his Chevy up front, resulting in another race where he was left to watch a teammate in Victory Lane.
17. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing
A free pass on Lap 175 gave Mears his 14th finish of the season on the lead lap, and extends his streak of doing so to three. Considering his starting position of 26th and his move to 24th place in the Sprint Cup Series standings, the day highlights steady improvement by the No. 13 team.
18. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
Patrick was the driver least impacted when she spun out and collected eight other cars on Lap 25 of the 200-lap race. She was on the lead lap at the race's halfway point, while the rest of the cars involved in the wreck were many laps down. She was in the beneficiary position on the final restart, getting back onto the lead lap with 20 to go and finishing there -- the last car to do so. (See video of the wreck here.)
19. Brian Vickers, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing
Vickers was running in the top 20 when he spun in Turn 4. His car managed to avoid collecting any others, but took a nosedive into the grass. He lost a right rear tire, as well, so when he went to pit road, it was all hands on deck. "Anyone with a helmet on" over the wall was the call from crew chief Billy Scott. The quick repairs with 25 laps to go were enough to keep Vickers in the top 20. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
20. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports
It may not have been a lead-lap finish, but Almirola's top-20 performance was enough to clinch him a top-30 spot in the Sprint Cup Series points standings. Combine that with his one win, and he's got himself a ticket to the Chase, so long as he attempts to qualify for the rest of the races this year.
21. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports
Gilliliand's 21st-place finish ties his second-best performance of the year, notched earlier this season at Sonoma. He was only one spot away from tying his best result, at 20th-place at Richmond. Considering Gilliliand's average finish at Michigan is 28.9 -- including this week's result -- it's certainly a good number for the team.
22. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Dillon was wheeling a strong charge toward the front of the pack, and his pit crew weren't going to be the ones to hold him back. Dillon gained eight positions on a two-tire pit stop halfway through the race, putting him in the top 10. A lot of the pit credit should go to the driver himself. Halfway through the race, Dillon had the best average time on pit road with 25 seconds. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender couldn't hold on out front, though, ending his day in 22nd. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
23. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
The one thing Carl Edwards asked for during the warm-up laps didn't come true. "Alright, guys, have some fun today. I appreciate everyone here from Roush, my family," he said over the radio. Unfortunately, instead of having fun, the team struggled to their third-worst running finish of 2014, two laps down, after battling pit road issues. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
24. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports
With his finish this weekend, Ragan has improved on his starting position in the last five races -- a streak that would be longer if he hadn't crashed in Daytona as the race came to a close. With results that seem to be on an upward swing -- the No. 34 hasn't finished in the 30s the past three races -- Ragan should be able to beat his earlier Bristol finish of 31st next weekend.
25. Cole Whitt, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing
In his second start at Michigan, Whitt bettered his first attempt by three positions. When considering his starting position -- 36th -- it seems the BK Racing driver has gotten a handle on the track in a Cup car pretty quickly. His average finish of 26.5 makes it his second-best oval, next to Pocono.
26. Alex Bowman, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing
He may not have been racing for the same position, but Bowman learned a lot about speed from Joey Logano at Michigan. "That 22 is hauling the mail," Bowman noted to his spotter. "Been like that all day," his spotter responded. On Lap 174, Brian Vickers and he made contact, bringing out a caution. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
27. Reed Sorenson, No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing
The No. 36 team earned its third finish in a row inside the top 30 at Michigan, even with a starting position of 40th. That's a five-spot improvement over an earlier finish at the track from the same starting position, and Sorenson's best finish at the track since 2010.
28. Josh Wise, No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing
It took a lot of maneuvering for the spotter of the No. 98 to get Josh Wise to pit road from the outside as Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and others continued to pass in the second round of green-flag pit stops. It wasn't any easier for the team on pit road, earning a speeding penalty and having to serve a pass-through. Wise was stunned to hear the charges, telling his crew chief, "There is NO WAY unless the RPMs are wrong." Clocked speeding in three places, Wise decided to keep his pit road speed to 4200 RPMs, instead of his usual 4600. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
29. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing
Cassill had to start at the rear of the field due to an engine change, but made the most of it, driving through the field as the race went on. In his earlier trip to the track, Cassill started 39th and finished 35th. The improved finish could be in part due to other competitors' bad luck, but the driver avoided hitting anything himself.
30. JJ Yeley, No. 38 Toyota, BK Racing
As a last-minute substitute for a concussed Ryan Truex, Yeley did all the team could ask, producing his best result so far this season among the seven Cup races in which he's competed. In fact, it was the team's second-best effort in 22 races this year.
31. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
One second he was racing for the lead, the next he was sucked into the wall while Joey Logano rushed by. Busch tried to keep pushing forward with a smoking right rear tire, but as debris flew in his wake, the No. 41 headed to pit road. An attempt at repairs didn't go well for the team. "Can I limp it around?" Busch asked. He couldn't, and the Stewart-Haas Racing team spent the final laps of the race in the garage. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
32. Travis Kvapil, No. 32 Ford, FAS Lane Racing
There were a few things Kvapil wasn't happy about at Michigan. One was track debris thrown on the track by "some genius;" the other was a pit road penalty that sent Kvapil back down pit road on Lap 115. He still was able to improve on his 38th-place qualifying run, however. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
33. Dave Blaney, No. 37 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing
Despite working on the No. 37 during pit stops, Dave Blaney wasn't happy with the car he was driving. "It just keeps getting looser," he lamented over the radio to his team. He still managed to gain some positions in the last 50 laps, however, moving up from 35th on Lap 150 to a finish of 33rd. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
34. Alex Kennedy, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport
A surprise on the best average pit time for four-tire stops was the No. 33 team. A 16.9 second-stop was the sxith-best four-tire crew change time of the race, putting the one-car team above some of the better-equipped names in the sport. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
35. Joe Nemechek, No. 66 Toyota, NEMCO Racing
He hasn't qualified for every race this season, but when he has, Nemechek has finished steadily in the 30s and 40s. He only has one better finish at Michigan in his past 11 races there, though, so this result is on the stronger side for him.
36. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing
A mixture of less time to prepare and more bad luck on the track led to another poor finish for Truex. He couldn't avoid the pile-up with Danica Patrick, Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, sending him to pit road with a left side tire down, a beat-up car and a lot of work do to. (See video of the wreck here.)
37. Jeff Burton, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
Burton seemed to be getting a good handle on the car usually driven by Tony Stewart when started sensing a smell of what he told his crew was an electrical fire. He came back after a pit stop when the smoke became too much, and after looking under the hood, the team decided to bring the No. 14 to the garage for a brief repair. The 14 was back on the track, and Burton salvaged a finish not of his making. (For more pit stop stats, subscribe to RaceView.)
38. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
After getting caught up in the Lap 25 wreck, Kenseth looked like he was in bad shape. Without a win, the driver needed to get a win, or at least keep as many points as he could. Instead, he spent several laps in the garage trying to repair his car. Thirty laps later, he was back out on the track, but the damage been done. (See video of the wreck here.)
39. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Three laps into the Pure Michigan 400, Kyle Busch -- then running 19th -- got into the wall in Turn 1. After some debate over the radio, the team headed to the garage for repairs. Busch did his best to come back from an early disadvantage, but he spent too many laps off the track to gain much. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
40. Michael Annett, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing
Annett was another one of the drivers involved in the nine-car wreck on Lap 25, spending almost a quarter of the race in the garage working on repairs. He was unable to finish, with vibration as the reason for his third DNF this year. (See video of the wreck here.)
41. Trevor Bayne, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing
Bayne also fell victim to the Lap 25 traffic jam, spending half the first quarter of the race in the garage. He didn't make it back on the track until Lap 69, long after Matt Kenseth, who was involved in the same wreck. (See video of the wreck here.)
42. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports
Allgaier seemed to sustain the most damage in the Lap 25 incident. He was in the garage for 72 laps, returning to the track in the last position on the leaderboard but moving up a spot when Kyle Larson was unable to finish the wreck. (See video of the wreck here.)
43. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Gannassi Racing
Larson wasn't miffed by a pit-road collision with Dale Earnhardt Jr. that caused some damage to his front left. He spent some extra time repairing the damage on pit road, and was on his way back up the field when he slammed into the wall amid a flaming No. 42. He appeared to be waiting for official word to exit the car when his crew told him to get out, as the car was on fire. "Did he blow a right front or something?" Crew chief Chris Heroy asked over the radio. He did, and the result ended Larson's day. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)