143 races ago. 4 years ago. 209 weeks ago. 1463 days ago. Over 35,000 hours ago. That was the last time Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying race. Today that losing streak came to an end. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway in dominating fashion. His last win came at this same track in 2008. Today, on Father’s Day, the 88 finally made it back to victory lane. And the world breathed a sigh of relief. This all had something to do with the Mayans and a calendar, although I’m not sure what. Actually, I’m making that up, but Dale Jr. WON!!
After a two hour rain delay to start the race, Marcos Ambrose started from the pole, his first, and led early. Dale Earnhardt Jr. started in 17th and promptly dropped like a rock, falling as far back as 29th position and Jr. Nation sighed and said, “well, it’s not gonna happen this week”.
Grumpy Grumpy Grouchyface Kurt “Sunshine” Busch brought out the first caution of the day on lap 2 after spinning out in turn 2. Meanwhile, Trevor Bayne, who is apparently expected to win every time he starts a race even though he doesn’t, blew an engine along with Josh Wise 9 laps into the race. Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte used the early cautions to bring the 88 in to make adjustments to the car knowing that NASCAR planned to throw competition cautions at lap 25 and lap 50 so that teams could monitor tire wear early in the race. By lap 40 in the 200 lap event, Jr. had made his way back up to 13th, and took the lead for the first time on lap 70.
Kyle Busch, in his attempt to take the heat off his brother, suffered yet another day of engine troubles. If you’re counting, that is three races in a row that the 18 has had engine woes. Kyle ended up 32nd, 43 laps down to Dale Jr., who would go on to win the race. Did I mention that? Kyle Busch’s day was nothing compared to Joe Gibbs’ checkbook. Joey Logano, who ran up front early and looked like he was on his way to another good run, wrecked on lap 127. Seven laps later Denny Hamlin wrecked and went up in flames. Not a good day for Mr. Gibbs.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was challenged once by 2nd place finisher Tony Stewart, but pulled away at the end to a 5.393 second margin of victory. Jimmie Johnson started in the rear of the field and finished 5th. Matt Kenseth, finished a strong 3rd, followed by teammate Greg Biffle in 4th. The rest of the top ten were Jeff Gordon in 6th, Clint Bowyer 7th, Juan Pablo Montoya 8th, Marcos Ambrose 9th, and Kevin Harvick finished in 10th. Matt Kenseth now holds a 4 point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the point standings.
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