Here's a look at the winners and losers from the recently completed NASCAR weekend at Michigan International Speedway:
It's been a long, long four years for the fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who have stood by their driver through some trying times. Now, with a resounding victory which moved Earnhardt Jr. just four points out of first in the standings, Junior Nation can celebrate and enjoy the spoils that come with winning. After all, you never know when the next one is going to come.
After starting the year with two wins in the first five events, it appeared Tony Stewart was continuing his torrid pace from the season before. However, zero victories along with four finishes of 24th or worse in the last 10 races raised some serious red flags about whether the owner/driver has what it takes to contend for his fourth series crown.
But those concerns have been alleviated slightly as Stewart has been in contention each of the last two weeks, leaving Michigan and Pocono with finishes of second and third, respectively.
Life is good for the affable Aussie who won his first series pole at Michigan, then parlayed that into a ninth-place finish -- his third top 10 in his last five starts. On top of that, the series heads to Sonoma this weekend and the style of track where Ambrose is at his absolute best. If he can score his second career win, it will propel the Richard Petty Motorsports driver into the thick of contention for one of the coveted wildcard spots.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Just about anything that could go wrong did for Joe Gibbs Racing this past weekend in Michigan.
First, Kyle Busch had engine issues for the third straight week, which has dropped him from ninth in points to 12th. This was followed by Joey Logano, who easily had a top 10 car, crashing out of the race after trying to work his way around the lapped car of David Gilliland. And the cherry on top of JGR's sour-tasting sundae included Denny Hamlin first wrecking then having his car catch ablaze as he came down pit road.
All told, Busch, Hamlin and Logano finished 32nd, 34th and 35th, respectively.
Due to lack of sponsorship, last year's winner of the Daytona 500 hasn't had a ton of opportunities to showcase his talent. And on Sunday when actually got the chance to sit behind the wheel, Bayne's afternoon lasted all of seven laps before his Roush-Yates engine expired.
Richard Childress Racing
Fifteen races into the year, the cars of Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs and Stewart-Haas all have won multiple races, while the stable of Richard Childress Racing cars has yet to claim a single checkered flag. Further proof of the ever-widening gap between the aforementioned four teams and RCR is that as of now, those four teams would all place at least two teams in the Chase, while RCR would just have Kevin Harvick as its lone representative.