Earnhardt Rises In Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich. – The losing streak is finally over for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Almost four years to the day of Earnhardt’s last Sprint Cup victory, the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet absolutely dominated Sunday at Michigan Int’l Speedway. He led the most laps, 96, and beat second-place Tony Stewart by 5.393 seconds at the finish.
The victory was Earnhardt’s 19th in Sprint Cup competition and his first victory in 143 starts. His last Sprint Cup victory also came at Michigan Int’l Speedway in 2008.
“That was a great race,” Earnhardt said after climbing from his car, which sported a special scheme promoting the new Batman film. “We just had a really good car. Our Chevrolet was real fast. That was pretty amazing. Those last 15 laps were the longest laps ever.”
Stewart, who led 18 laps Sunday, looked like he had something for Earnhardt until the final round of green flag pit stops. Once the round of pit stops concluded, Earnhardt simply pulled away from Stewart to what turned out to be an easy victory.
Earnhardt dedicated the win to his fans and thanked them for sticking with him during his four-year winless skid.
“They stuck behind me for all these years,” Earnhardt said of his fans. “I know exactly what they’ve been thinking about and how long they’ve been wanting us to get to victory lane. This one is for them. I appreciate their loyalty and their support. We wouldn’t have made it back to victory lane without them.”
The victory was also big for Earnhardt in the point standings. He is now just four points behind Matt Kenseth, who finished third, for the championship lead.
Stewart was happy to finish second after struggling during the final practice session Saturday evening, in which Goodyear introduced a new left-rear tire that was used during Sunday’s race.
“We were 27th quick on the sheet yesterday,” Stewart said. “We had a lot of curveballs coming out way, but I am really proud of Steve Addington (crew chief) and these guys. It’s amazing what one night and those guys thinking, they came up with a totally different race car today. I’m really proud of them.”
Greg Biffle led 37 laps Sunday and finished fourth ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who started from the rear of the field after an engine change, in fifth.
Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, polesitter Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.
The Busch brothers continued their recent struggles. Kurt Busch crashed on lap two and spun later in the event, finishing 30th. His younger brother Kyle Busch suffered engine problems for the third-straight race and finished 32nd.
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