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Team Hendrick in the pits and other Michigan notes

By admin | August 17, 2008

By Richard Allen


Once again, second guessers will have an opportunity to scrutinize Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his Hendrick Motorsports crew.

Just like last week in Watkins Glen, Junior had a strong car early in the race. He got out front early in the 3M Performance 400 and looked like he had a chance for a repeat victory at the track on which he won in June.

During a late race caution period some teams opted to pit and some did not. The #88 team decided not to pit. After the restart, those who had pitted charged to the front and in the mad rush Junior’s car was forced high and into the wall. The resulting damage left Earnhardt with what must have been a bitter 23rd place finish.

This time, however, the decision to stay out may not meet with the same controversy as last week’s decision to continue on the road course track long after cars were inside the needed window to make their last stop. There was not nearly as much second guessing from the booth as there was last week.



Earnhardt was not the only Hendrick Motorsports superstar to have issues on pit road. Jeff Gordon’s team also found difficulty on the pit lane.

After their first stop of the day the #24 team was admonished by their driver. “That was a sorry stop,” he said. “I know you can do better. You’re the best out there.”

However, Gordon did not make an effort to sound so positive when interviewed later. “We finally had an awesome car but had awful pit stops,” he said while in the garage. “We didn’t have the total package today.”

Gordon was in the garage because he had fallen back in the pack as a result of one of those pit stops. While racing four wide the cars of Gordon, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson made contact. That contact forced Johnson to pit road for repairs. Gordon later blew a tire and slammed the wall as a result.

Gordon wound up in 42nd place.



There was to be no Cinderella story for the second week in a row for Australian Marcos Ambrose.

After starting 43rd he worked his way a up to a 3rd place finish in Watkins Glen. Unfortunately for the Wood Brothers Racing team, an early blown engine left them 43rd on Sunday.



Again, there were empty seats at the Michigan International Speedway but it did not seem as though there were as many as there were in June.

Perhaps it was the ‘Junior Effect’?



On his way to victory Carl Edwards wasted little time showing how strong his #99 Ford was going to be.

Even though he started 27th he made a pass for the lead by lap 74.



Unlike in June, this race did not come down to a fuel mileage run.

The race ran under the green flag from lap 100 to lap 164. With only 32 laps to go when the restart occurred there was no concern over fuel. Later cautions would further assure that there would be no reason for concern over fuel.



Roush Fenway Racing and Ford continued their domination on this track. Four of the top five finishers, including the winner, were RFR Fords.

Toyota once again came up just short by finishing second on the track located very near the headquarters of the ‘Big Three’ American auto manufacturers.



Thanks in part to a warning from his crew, Carl Edwards was able to keep Kyle Busch from doing to him what he did to Jimmie Johnson on a previous late race restart.

In Chicago, Busch started second behind Johnson with just a few laps remaining and essentially bulldozed Johnson out of the way. Edwards got off to such a good start on the race’s final green flag that Busch was unable to repeat his Chicago performance.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

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4 Responses to “Team Hendrick in the pits and other Michigan notes”

  1. Larry Says:
    August 18th, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Jeff Gordon reminds me of Junior, last year, each time a mistake was made on pit road, the result being was to fire/ replace a pit crew member. Now Jeff Gordon decides to chastise his pit crew as they being not only responsible for a bad pit stop but ultimately being responsible for a bad race…but, hey, lets not forget there was enough blame to go around as he also laid sufficient blame on his spotter. The only person who has not received blame this year has been the “infamous” Jeff Gordon. When the Hendricks team was “on a roll” last year, all was well with the world and the rightful team was implanted into its rightful place…at the top of the NASCAR world. Now, one year later, with Carl Edwards and (former Hendricks castoff) Kyle Busch dominating the racing scene, the supposed Hendricks “dream team” is not winning every race as was presumed in the pre-season…all is now NOT well in the world of NASCAR. How dare a Hendricks cast-off and a (heaven forbid) FORD dominate the CUP series. I remember in the past few seasons, listening to Mark Martin on the radio after a “less than stellar” pit stop saying to his crew, “hey guys, don’t worry, we’ll get it back, heavens knows I have run into the wall enought to cost us races and points.” You don’t hear that “team” concept over the radio at Hendricks…only blame, and usually in one direction. It will be intriguing to see just “who” is to blame should the “infamous” 24 not make the chase.

  2. Callaway Says:
    August 18th, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Racing runs in cycles what was unbeatable last year is beatable this year and next year luck will shine on others who are prepared. But lets not get ahead of the Chase too far all it takes is the points being shuffled when it starts and someone getting a lucky at the right time and it’s anyone’s ballgame. I’m not a Jeff Gordon follower but trying to make him look smaller certainly doesn’t diminish his accomplishments or make posters look larger in their nitpicking. Last time I checked Hendrick has 3 cars in the top 10 and I’m sure there are many in the garage that would jump at the chance to be in that kind of a slump.

  3. the Old Guy Says:
    August 18th, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Once again, the “Jr’s” found a way to lose another race.

    Seems that no one has explained to them the concept of…

    “It’s not how you start or run early in the race, it’s how you finish.”

    Is there anyone out there who didn’t know that Carl knew what KB’s strategy would be?

    It’s coming down to the wire. The two best in NASCAR will battle it out for the championship.

    Kudo’s to Davaid Ragan. It’s not if he will win a race now, but when.

    As concerns Jeff Gordon………

    And, finally, it’s “Hendrick”, there is no “s” at the end. Rich has it right. I don’t know why everyone else can’t get it.

  4. earl lewis Says:
    August 20th, 2008 at 9:11 am

    if junior wants to win races, he needs to lose eury jr. eury jr is his downfall. jr has not done a thing with eury jr (9 yrs to be exact with that piece of crap). jimmie j has done proven himself. and jeff g has. junior is the THIRD WHEEL. jr will be replaced, if he does not start doing something. that name is gonna only carry him so long! i do not believe jeff g and rick h will keep jr 5 yrs!! i say this because jeff g owns half of hendrick motorsports and jimmie j. jr better wake up!!!