NASCAR Michigan 2014 weekend recap: Powerful engines propel Hendrick dominance

Jonathan Daniel

Hendrick Motorsports won for the fifth week in a row and the formula for its success is no secret; it’s all about what’s under the hood.

Nothing about the outcome was surprising or unexpected even if the venue may have been new. For the third time in four races Jimmie Johnson was the man holding the trophy in Victory Lane Sunday having triumphed in the Quicken Loans 400.

While it may have been Johnson's first career win at Michigan International Speedway in 25 attempts that too was no shock. The defending Sprint Cup champion had long been overdue to win on the 2-mile track, having come close on several occasions in recent years only to be vexed by a myriad of impediments.

"It's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else. They're probably a full season ahead of everyone. We've got work to do to get there." -Brad Keselowski

Less of an astonishment was that for the fifth consecutive week a Hendrick Motorsports driver was doing the celebrating.

From the first lap in practice Friday through the fall of the checkered flag two days later, Hendrick drivers or those of its affiliate teams (Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing) were omnipresent at the top of the scoring charts. Combined, drivers using Hendrick horsepower led 81 percent of all laps Sunday, and held nine of the top 13 positions.

"I think it is obvious that Hendrick Motorsports produces fast race cars" Johnson said. "They build fast engines. It doesn't matter if it is Stewart-Haas, or the Hendrick organization. We're winning a lot of races, and running up front."

It's a kind of dominance that has left the opposition befuddled. Even third-place finisher Brad Keselowski of Team Penske had to concede just how outclassed the garage is in comparison to the Hendrick juggernaut.

"We all have got a little bit of work to do because it's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else," Keselowski said. "Usually that's not something you catch up with in one season. As far ahead as they are right now, they're probably a full season ahead of everyone. We've got work to do to get there."

As if any more confirmation was needed, Johnson's Michigan win is just the latest evidence that NASCAR's highest division is in fact Hendrick's domain. Along with Johnson, teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. maintain realistic championship expectations -- which if come to fruition would be the organization's 12th in 30 years.

And if that championship doesn't materialize for Hendrick it might only be because SHR, which although a separate entity shares a close technical alliance with Hendrick and gets its cars and engines from NASCAR's preeminent team, wins a second title in four years.

"The way that the Hendrick Motorsports affiliated teams and team itself has performed has been pretty impressive as a whole," said Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief. "We know we build chassis for a lot of the other competitors and those cars have ran very, very well. The teams that have run with our engines have run very, very well, as well. It's been pretty awesome."

Because outside of his own teammates Johnson's chief rival figures to be Kevin Harvick, who started on the pole at Michigan and led a race-high 63 laps en route to a second-place finish. On the year, he is twice victorious with the potential for several more had it not been for several correctable mistakes.

"I think it's pretty obvious. Self-explanatory," said Harvick about the benefits of having a Hendrick motor.

And what should send shivers through everyone not associated with Hendrick, Knaus made it known he expects a higher level of performance when the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins in September.

"The fact of the matter is I think we've got to be a little bit better," Knaus said. "We've got to continue to improve our product so by the time we get to the Chase we're where we need to be."

What's left to improve Knaus didn't elaborate. One can only surmise the Hendrick machine won't rest until it steamrolls every race in the same fashion it did Sunday at Michigan.

More from SBNation.com

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.