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Dale Jr. Returns to Victory Lane in Michigan

By Tyler Overstreet, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 6/17/2012
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Race: Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-shaped Oval
Weather: Sunny, 81 degrees
Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in four years by dominating the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 95 laps and took the checkered flag with a five-second lead over runner-up Tony Stewart. The victory marks Earnhardt Jr.’s 19th-career victory, and first in the past 143 races. Dale Jr. now moves to only four points behind points’ leader Matt Kenseth for the championship lead.

Despite starting 17th, Earnhardt Jr.’s Diet Mountain Dew/‘The Dark Knight Rises’/National Guard Chevrolet began the race very loose and in Earnhardt’s words “edgy” as he slipped back to 27th in the race’s first 10 laps. Crew chief Steve Letarte elected to add a spring rubber to the No. 88 Chevrolet’s left-rear to tighten the car’s handling. The change proved to be exactly what Earnhardt Jr. needed as he charged from as low as 36th to the lead before the race’s halfway point.

Stewart posed the strongest threat in the race’s second half, but faded after he and Earnhardt made their final pit stop under green at lap 163. Earnhardt Jr. stretched his lead once the pair returned to the track and was able to cruise to the victory.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quotes
“That was a great race. I want to thank my sponsors; National Guard, Diet Mountain Dew. It was great to have Batman on the car today. We just had a really good car. Our Chevrolet was really fast. It’s pretty amazing. Those last 15 laps were the longest laps ever. I don’t know what to think about it just yet.

“To (win) for my fans that stuck behind me for all these years, and I know exactly what they’ve been thinking about and how long they’ve wanted us to get to victory lane, this is for them. I appreciate their loyalty and we wouldn’t have made it back to victory lane without them so that’s who we’ve got to give all the credit to.”

Michigan Race Report
Start 17th
Finish 1st
Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (95)
Standings (from leader) 2nd (-4)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Ford EcoBoost 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +3 Kevin Harvick 5043 0
2 +1 Ryan Newman 5042 -1
3 -2 Denny Hamlin 5037 -6
4 -2 Joey Logano 5028 -15
5 -- Brad Keselowski 2361 -2682
6 -- Jeff Gordon 2348 -2695
7 -- Matt Kenseth 2334 -2709
8 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2301 -2742
9 -- Carl Edwards 2288 -2755
10 -2 Kyle Busch 2285 -2758
11 +2 Jimmie Johnson 2274 -2769
12 +2 Kurt Busch 2263 -2780
Full Standings