As Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway drew to a close only one Hendrick Motorsports team remained in contention.
Yet even the virtually indestructible Jimmie Johnson couldn’t come away from this race unscathed.
With three of 200 laps remaining, Johnson was running second and trying to run down leader Greg Biffle when his car drifted up the track and slapped the wall as his right-front tire went flat.
Johnson was forced to pit road and ended up finishing 28th. He still leads the series standings and holds a 31-point lead over Carl Edwards.
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“I guess just running that hard trying to get through traffic and get to the No. 16 we wore through the right-front,” Johnson said after the race. “I’m kind of shocked because we didn’t have any issues.
“I hate missing an opportunity. I want those bonus points for winning races and feel like one got away from us today.
“We will come back at Sonoma next weekend, make some right-hand turns and see what happens.”
Even with Johnson’s troubles, his Hendrick teammates all had much worse days.
Jeff Gordon got collected in an accident with Bobby Labonte and Trevor Bayne just seven laps into the race and ended up 39th.
“I just can’t believe the way this season is going for us,” Gordon said. “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.”
Kasey Kahne blew a tire and slammed hard into the wall while he was leading the race on Lap 103 and ended up finished 38th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led the second-most laps Sunday (34), blew an engine and was forced to the garage after 131 laps and was credited with a 37th place finish.
Earnhardt’s last Cup win came in this race one year ago and for a while Sunday he looked poised for another.
“We were really struggling in practice and I’m just real proud of (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and the whole team. They made a lot of great changes,” Earnhardt said. “That car was just flying at the end there.”