Tough day for Hendrick drivers
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Sunday was a rough day for Hendrick Motorsports.
Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had promising rides derailed by car problems, and Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon’s shot at winning at Michigan International Speedway ended less than 10 laps in because of a crash.
Throw in a cut tire that left Kasey Kahne 38th, and none of the racing giant’s four entries cracked the top 25.
Greg Biffle took the lead after a late restart and pulled away for his first Sprint Cup victory of the season and second straight at MIS.
Johnson, whose points lead shrunk to 31 points after he finished 28th, was chasing Biffle in the closing laps, but a tire gave way. He has never won a Cup race at MIS.
“I hate having that problem at the end,” Johnson said. “I had to run the car really hard to get through all those guys and must have worn through that right front tire with two or three (laps) to go.”
Earnhardt led for 34 laps, but a blown cylinder took him out of contention.
“We had such an awesome race car. We actually improved the car on the last stop,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but you’d rather be leading the race than be running at the back and have problems. At least we were strong.”
Earnhardt started the season with five straight top-seven finishes, including two seconds, but he has ropped to seventh in the standings. A blown engine left him 39th at Charlotte on May 26.
“We’ve run good, but we’ve just got to figure out what’s going on under the hood,” he added. “I’m sure they’ll get it sorted out. We’re pushing these engines hard, trying to get all we can out of them.”
Johnson and Earnhardt at least could look back on competitive moments Sunday. That was hardly the case for Gordon, who started 29th and finished 10 spots lower after Bobby Labonte’s early spin collected him in Turn 2.
″(Labonte) just did one of those slow spins where I couldn’t tell which direction he was going to go, so I had to guess and I guessed wrong,” Gordon said. “I didn’t really have anywhere to go.”
It was the fifth time this season Gordon finished worse than 20th.
“I don’t want to see the team get down and I don’t want to see myself get down,” he said after falling to 16th in the standings. “I have a lot of fight in me and so does this team.
“I’m looking forward to going to Sonoma.”
The California road course is the series’ next stop.