Brooklyn, Mich.,— Jimmie Johnson could almost taste victory at Michigan International Speedway in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, but tasted defeat instead as the second engine of the weekend for the No. 48 expired with just six laps remaining.
It was the fourth engine to let go from the Hendrick Motor Sports stable. Johnson went through two, Tony Stewart dropped a cylinder at lap 60, and Jeff Gordon was in the garage on lap 95 with similar engine issues. Both Stewart and Gordon returned to the track to limp toward the finish line, but Johnson left the track immediately.
Gordon blamed a valve spring, the same issue that plagued Stewart. Michigan is typically a tough place for engines, but Hendrick rarely has such issues.
“We rarely have these issues and it’s unfortunate to have this one here today,” said Gordon. “It’s the kind of year we’ve been having.”
“It’s something that when you come to Michigan and you turn these kinds of sustained rpm’s on this fast of a track, it’s always of concern here,” Gordon added. “And that bit us.”
Gordon hoped after a win two weeks ago at Pocono momentum would be on the team’s side, but that wasn’t the case after a wreck at Watkins Glen followed by the engine issue. Stewart also had issues two weeks in a row, but an engine was not at all expected.
“It’s something that is not a norm for sure,” said Stewart. “It’s uncommon to have a problem like this there.”
Stewart added, “It’s not something I’m concerned about and having problems in the future with, it’s just a bad day.”
With points on the line Stewart said, “It’s a series that obviously we saw how the end of the year was last year and how one point can make a difference. You just try to get everything you can get.”
Jimmie Johnson finished 27th, Jeff Gordon finished 28th and Tony Stewart finished 32nd.