When Chase Elliott spun his tires on the final restart of the Pure Michigan 400, it set up yet another finish without Hendrick Motorsports in victory lane.
Hendrick has gone 19 races since its last victory, which matches a stretch from 1992 – 1993 for the team that has 11 Sprint Cup titles.
It led to Elliott’s second runner-up finish at Michigan this season after spinning tires on a final restart.
“My guys did such a good job today of making the most of pit road,” Elliott said. “That was the only place you could make a large sum of ground in a short period of time. They did exactly what I asked them to do. I said ‘you guys are going to have to bail me out here I messed up.’ They did they got us the lead just like I asked and I gave it away again. It’s one of those things where you do or you don’t and I didn’t.
Hendrick hasn’t won since Jimmie Johnson‘s victory at Auto Club Speedway in March. Johnson actually led 37 laps Saturday, his first since leading a lap from the pole at New Hampshire five races ago. He hadn’t led more than five laps since he led 44 at Richmond on April 24.
After Johnson qualified second, a slow pit stop due to a fueling error dropped him in the pack from the lead.
He worked his way to finish sixth after an unscheduled stop when Johnson thought he had a right-rear tire going down. It’s Johnson’s first consecutive top-10 finish since April.
“Yeah, just a very good day for all of Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, one of our cars didn’t win today … … To rally back and end up sixth is good. We are working hard and it’s nice to see the speed showing. There has been a lot of hard work for months and months and months going into this. We didn’t see the consistency in speed that we wanted, but this weekend we’ve had it from day one until now.”
Behind Johnson was Kasey Kahne, who finished 14th, his second consecutive top 15 and his third in four races.
The real odd-man out was Alex Bowman, who was substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the second time in six races. Driving a No. 88 car sponsored by the University of Michigan, Bowman started sixth and ran as high as fourth. But around Lap 40, Bowman began losing power and dropped to 30th as the team attempted to figure out the problem.
After a visit to the garage, which led to the repair of an ignition issue, Bowman returned to the track where he finished 35th, five laps down.
Even though Hendrick didn’t send one of its drivers to victory lane, it was represented there by one of its engines. Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 Chevrolet, though owned by Chip Ganassi Racing, is powered by a Hendrick engine.
That gave Hendrick engines a 1-2 finish at the track located in the backyard of the three major American car manufacturers.
Jeff Andrews, the head engine builder for Hendrick, tweeted his excitement over the afternoon.
Hendrick has 14 wins at Darlington Raceway, the next stop on the Sprint Cup Series.
After Bowman’s stint in the No. 88, seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon will return to make his fifth substitute start for Earnhardt.