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Posted: Tuesday, June 17th 2014 at 2:48am

Hendrick Motorsports has firm hold of Sprint Cup Series standings

By Scott Held - NASCAR Wire Service
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Jimmie Johnson leads a pack of cars during Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. / Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
BROOKLYN, MI - The 2013 Quicken Loans 400 was a forgettable day for Hendrick Motorsports.

A year made all the difference.

Jimmie Johnson drove his No. 48 Chevy to his first career win at Michigan International Speedway and Hendrick teammates Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. landed in the top seven.

The finishes sent the team to next weekend’s stop at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, CA with the top three spots in the Sprint Cup series standings. Gordon retained his lead, but it’s just 15 points better than Johnson, who jumped from fourth to second with the victory. Earnhardt remained third, 38 points behind Gordon.

“This was a great win for a lot of reasons,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “It was great to see Jimmie, after leading so many laps here, finally close the deal.

“All our cars ran well. We’ve been kind of clicking here lately.”

A win at Sonoma would give HMS six straight series wins for the first time since 2007.

And the good news just kept coming: Six of the top eight finishers were powered by Chevy engines developed by HMS. Brad Keselowski was third for Ford’s best finish Sunday and admitted the rest of the teams in the series probably will be looking ahead at HMS the rest of the way.

“We all have a little bit of work to do,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious the Hendrick engines are way ahead of us.”

The day was especially sweet for Kahne, who was dinged on Lap 6 but made his way back and took his first lead on Lap 183 before having to pit a few laps later. His fifth-place finish was just his fourth top-five performance this season and his best since he was third at Kansas on May 10.

Johnson had HMS’s best finish last spring when he ended the race 28th. Earnhardt, Gordon and Kahne all left early because of crashes or engine problems.
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