NASCAR Sprint Cup: Quicken Loans 400 Race Rewind

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJune 15, 2014 

Observations

• Jimmie Johnson has the most wins in the Sprint Cup Series this season (three), but Kevin Harvick might be the driver who has had the most opportunities to win. For the second time this season, Harvick led the most laps and failed to win the race. The other time was Kansas, where he also finished second. Harvick was none-too-pleased Sunday, providing only short, curt answers to questions. Although he has two wins and is safely in the Chase, he knows missed opportunities could cost him his first series championship.

• Roush Fenway Racing owns the most Cup victories at Michigan International Speedway with 13. None of its drivers – Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished among the top-10 Sunday. That marks the first time since June 2000, Roush hasn’t placed a driver among the top-10 at Michigan. That statistic might say more about the organization’s struggles this season than anything else.

• While there is no absolute guarantee, Ford’s decision to extend its sponsorship at Homestead-Miami Speedway of the championship-deciding weekend for all three of NASCAR’s national series through 2019 pretty much cements Homestead as the site of the season finale for the foreseeable future.

Notebook

Strong weekend for Menard: Paul Menard had one of his best all-around weekends in NASCAR.

He won Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Michigan – his first victory in that series since 2006 – and finished fourth in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, his second-best Cup finish this year.

“We had a really solid car all weekend, from the time we unloaded,” he said. “We needed some clean air at the end and the guys got me out front with some pit strategy and good pit stops and we came home with a top-five. So, it was pretty good.”

Larson and Kahne rebound: Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne were involved in an incident on Lap 7 along with Martin Truex Jr. Larson and Kahne were able to recover and finish among the top-10.

Larson, who was eighth, spent much of the rest of the race running without a rear bumper cover on his car and he also was penalized once for speeding on pit road.

“We fought our way back to the top five and pretty much stayed there for most of the race, and then with under 50 laps to go, I sped on pit road,” he said. “I was really bummed about that because I knew we would have a shot to win.”

Kahne ended up fifth – just his second top-five of the season.

Toyota struggles: Clint Bowyer’s 10th-place finish was the best result for the Toyota camp, highlighting the manufacturer’s start to the season.

“It’s just tough right now to compete with that horsepower (Hendrick Motorsports) has right now,” Bowyer said. “That’s a pretty distinct advantage when you look at the results on that.”

Chevrolet has won nine of 15 races this year. Toyota has two wins – Kyle Busch in Fontana, Calif., and Denny Hamlin at Talladega, Ala.

Chevrolet takes the trophy: With the victory by Johnson, Chevrolet claimed the new Heritage Trophy, which is presented to the winning manufacturer in the Sprint Cup races at Michigan.

“This is a big deal. It’s a big deal for Chevrolet and it’s especially a big deal to win at your home track in our backyard, so we are very excited,” said Alba Colon, Chevrolet’s program manager for the Cup series.

Five key moments

1 . Kyle Larson’s car spun on Lap 7 in an incident that also collected Kasey Kahne’s and Martin Truex Jr.’s cars. Larson and Kahne would rally for top-10 finishes.

2 . Kevin Harvick’s team elects a different pit strategy and was one of three not to pit under caution on Lap 124.

3 . A debris caution on Lap 149 upset Harvick’s strategy and he was forced to pit while five others – including Jimmie Johnson – remained on the track.

4 . Johnson took the lead on Lap 152 and remained out front until making his final green-flag pit stop on Lap 165.

5 . Once all teams made their final green-flag pit stops on Lap 191, Johnson cycled back into the lead.

Next race

Where: Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

TV: TNT

Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Martin Truex Jr.

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