Hendrick Motor Sports is commonly known as one of NASCAR's most respected race teams and feared competitors. So, when all four of the HMS entries fail to finish in the top 25 of a Cup Series event, it makes big news.
The day started out with lots of promise as all four of the Hendrick drivers. They had shown a lot of speed in practice and a good race day seemed eminent.
However, things took a turn for the worse as the elder statesman of the camp, Jeff Gordon, crashed in the opening laps in an accident with Bobby Labonte. Gordon knew that he had to be careful after starting so deep in the field but just couldn't get out of the way fast enough.
"He just did one of those slow spins where I couldn't tell which direction he was going to go," recalled Gordon of the incident. "I had to guess and I guessed the wrong way. I didn't really have anywhere to go."
Gordon fell to sixteenth in the point standings and seemed a little frustrated with the way that his team's year has gone so far.
"It seems like we can run all day long when we can't get the car right but when we finally get the car right, something like this happens," continued Gordon on his teams misfortunes. "This team just continues to have to face adversity and I appreciate how strong they are during it, but I just wish we didn't all have to be tested quite this much."
Gordon didn't get to show his strength but, teammates Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson all took their turns leading the field at one point until their luck turned the wrong way.
Kasey Kahne passed Dale Jr. for the lead and seemed to be one of the elite cars but a blown right front tire sent his Chevrolet hard into the turn one wall ending his day.
"I would say it was a tire that went down, but I don't know for sure," said Kahne, who finished 38th and fell four spots in the point standings to 12th position. "I just was going into the corner and then 'boom' it turned right went straight into the wall."
Jr. also felt the agony of defeat as his No. 88 car blew an engine while pulling away to a sizable lead late in the race and finished 37th.
"They made a lot of great changes and that car was just flying at the end there," said Jr. on his team's performance. "I don't know if we had as good a car as Jimmie, but we had certainly made some gains on it, even in the last stop. So, I'm just real proud of my team. I hate to run into trouble."
Speaking of Jimmie, Johnson leads the team in wins and sits at the top of the point standings at the half way mark in the season. He seemed headed to another victory until a slow final pit stop put him deep in the field which forced him to drive extra hard to get back to the front. That hard driving is what he credits leading to a blown right front which ended his bid an relegated him to a 27th place finish.
"I guess just running that hard trying to get through traffic and get to the No. 16 of Biffle, we wore through the right-front," said a surprised Johnson after the race. "I'm kind of shocked because we didn't have any issues before that."
Despite the hard times endured by the Hendrick's teammates, Gregg Biffle drove his Ford to a record breaking victory. It was Biffle's first win of the season and third at Michigan International Speedway.
"It's definitely a special day," Biffle said after delivering Ford Motor Co. its 1,000th victory in NASCAR's three national touring series. "Just super-excited for Ford and sure excited to be No. 1,000."
It was a good day for Biffle and the Ford camp but, despite the misfortunes, I wouldn't count Hendrick Motor Sports out by no means. They had trouble but, three of the four cars had their trouble while running at the front of the field. If it had not been for blown tires or engines, this could have been another win for HMS.
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