Michigan resident Aaron Rickens, with hat in air, and fans celebrate the start of the race at Michigan International Speedway. BLADE/LORI KING
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Jimmie Johnson’s first Sprint Cup win at Michigan International Speedway wasn’t the only bit of history on Sunday.
On the flip side, Roush Fenway Racing drivers endured an all-time day to forget.
The team did not place a single driver in the top 10 at MIS for the first time since 2000. In fact, the same team that claims a record 13 wins at the two-mile track barely placed anyone in the top 20. Greg Biffle finished 20th, Carl Edwards came in 23rd, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., placed 27th.
“That was a big struggle,” Edwards said. “It was pretty tough, but we worked hard and didn’t quit. Fortunately, we have a win to get us in the Chase, but we’ve got to do better as a group.”
Edwards’ win in Bristol, Tenn., last month remains Roush Fenway’s only victory this season, leading many across the industry to wonder what is wrong with the one-time powerhouse.
“It's not fair for me to really judge anything because I’d know just enough to sound like a fool,” said Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski, who finished third on Sunday. “But I know they would probably tell you they're not where they want to be.”
A TALKING TO: During a caution in Sunday’s race, a TNT camera caught Tony Stewart sticking the hand out the window of his Chevrolet and shaking it at the car of Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson.
“That's Tony being Tony,” Larson said, shrugging. “Yeah, with the Tony issue, I was pretty tight on whoever was inside of me on the restart, and I was looking in my mirror and saw him juke to the right, so I juked to the right and he hit me, and I don't know, he was just trying to teach me a lesson, I'm guessing. Oh, well, that's two weeks in a row.”
Stewart finished 11th, while Larson finished eighth.
PREGAMING: Father Geoffrey Rose, the president-elect of St. Francis de Sales High School, gave the invocation at MIS prior to the Quicken Loans 400.
Rose will take over as president of St. Francis next year.
REUNITED: Sean Brady, a Texas native and a sergeant in the Army, met with his family twice on Sunday at MIS. After taking a pace car ride in the morning with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and meeting with Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Brady’s wife, Lauren, and his two children, surprised him at the end of the drive around the superspeedway.
Later in the day, Brady was introduced to the crowd as part of a tribute to veterans at MIS and was greeted by another family member — his father, Wayne, who had no idea his son would be at the Sprint Cup race.
IN LIKE A LION: Eric Ebron, a rookie tight end with the Detroit Lions, served as the grand marshal for the Sprint Cup race.
Selected 10th overall in May’s NFL Draft, Ebron signed a contract Friday with the Lions and two days later, discussed his transition from North Carolina to the NFL.
“It’s the mental aspect of football,” Ebron said. “A lot of things seem a lot more natural to me, with my athleticism, to do the things I do, and it makes it a lot easier to be coached. But picking up the playbook, once I fully and completely understand it, I’ll be ready to go.”
In college, he explained, the spread offense North Carolina used relied on hand signals and formation, not verbal communication.
“Now, it’s paragraphs or words and getting ready to break,” Ebron said. “Sometimes, by the time you figure out where to line up, you forgot the play. By the time you remember the play, the ball’s snapped. It’s rough, but I’ve gotten it down better and better each day.