Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 6/19/12

 

It's finally happened, folks. Junior Nation is in a state of ecstasy and NASCAR officials are thrilled to see their most popular driver back in Victory Lane for the first time in four years.

Of course, plenty of things happened over the weekend, which saw dozens of drivers post record-shattering qualifying runs. But seriously, all you really need to know is this: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a race!

And so, without further ado, on we proceed to presenting the movers and shakers after Michigan.

Up: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The man just broke a 143-race winless streak in dominating fashion. Need any more be said?

Down: Kyle Busch

The man Junior replaced at Hendrick Motorsports is suffering through a three-race streak of engine failures. Following engine blowups early last season, Joe Gibbs Racing's engine shop merged with Toyota Racing Development in hopes of avoiding just this kind of problem. KyBu has been fast, but when you are in the garage early with the hood up it doesn't matter how fast you used to be.

Up: Hendrick Motorsports

Yes, Kasey Kahne crashed for the second week in a row. But he's still in decent position to make the Chase with another win or two. And the other three Hendrick drivers placed in the top six, led by Dale Jr.'s winning effort, of course. This team is hot right now with wins in four of the past five races (six of seven if you count the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race) and I wouldn't bet against one of its drivers taking the checkered flag no matter where the series goes.

Down: Jeff Burton

It's time for another shout-out to the RCR laggard, elder statesman, and one-time title contender. Burton hasn't won since 2008 and has missed the Chase in two of the last three seasons. With just three top-10's on the year, the sunset of a career is approaching for one of the classiest drivers NASCAR has seen in quite some time.

Up: Nos. 16/17 teams

The Roush racing duo of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle has been rock solid all year long. They get less attention than teammate Carl Edwards, but have been better than the No. 99 this year (Edwards finished 11th at Michigan and sits 11th in the standings, winless). Kenseth leads the standings and ran third on Sunday, while Biffle led the standings for a couple of months before slipping to third, but ran well at Michigan with a fourth-place effort. Both Kenseth and Biffle have wins on the season and led significant chunks of Sunday's race.

Down: Denny Hamlin

This spot could easily go to JGR teammate Joey Logano, who saw a top-five run ruined by an accident, but Hamlin wins the spot because fiery engine blowups are just cool. Unless you happen to be trapped by the raging inferno, which Hamlin was. Thankfully there are safety crews on hand for the purpose of extinguishing these types of blazes, and all escaped unharmed.

Up: Goodyear tire management

The last thing NASCAR fans hope to see is a repeat of the 2008 tire debacle in the Brickyard 400, where exploding tires forced the race to be run in 10-15 lap increments. Kudos to Goodyear for coming up with a solution to the blistering tires that were an issue in practice sessions leading up the the race.

Down: Hopes for races at 200 mph+

Okay, I know speeds were still insanely fast during Sunday's race at over 190 mph. But for those of us who long to see the hated restrictor plates tossed into the dust bin of history for Daytona and Talladega, it was disappointing to see new tires brought in to keep the speeds down. Too bad Goodyear couldn't just invent some magic potion to keep the tires from blistering at the amazing speeds seen in practice on Thursday and Friday.

But while I mentioned restrictor plates, let me make one other point. The only thing restrictor plates restrict is great racing. There have been just as many spectacular crashes with restrictor plates as there were before NASCAR decided to mandate them to keep speeds under 200 mph. Would you rather have a couple of cars crashing at 205 mph, or half the field wrecking at 190 mph? Hmm.....

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Miguel Cabrera headed to disabled list for 1st time in career

Report: San Antonio Spurs to sign LaMarcus Aldridge

WATCH: Serena Williams wags finger at Wimbledon crowd, says, 'Don’t try me'

Report: Rajon Rondo headed to Sacramento Kings

Dez Bryant deal with Cowboys could be announced Monday

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly sign long-term contracts with Columbus, Buffalo

Mavs solidify future, sign Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan

A-Rod, Yankees settle dispute over home run milestone bonus

Report: Robin Lopez, Knicks finalizing four-year deal

Becky Hammon will coach Spurs' Summer League team

Jimmy Butler on Derrick Rose: ‘I don’t think we have any issues’

NBA Rumors: Cavs and Spurs vying for David West

Damian Lillard is the Blazers’ new franchise player

Bryce Harper flaunts patriotic bat, hits home run

Report: Magic will sign Tobias Harris to 4-year deal

The top American sports moments since the last Fourth of July

Nine former college football rivalries that need to come back

The most patriotic uniforms in American sports

Jeanie Buss: Brother Jim will step down if Lakers don't make deep run within two seasons

DeAndre Jordan to Dallas: The Los Angeles Clippers are literally mad men

Remember when the Cincinnati Bearcats were the scariest team in America?

Are the Angels now the worst organization in baseball?

Five reasons the Browns should play Johnny Manziel

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Russell Wilson 'would definitely consider' playing for Mariners

Solo, Rapinoe among USWNT stars up for World Cup awards

LBS on Sports Jeopardy! Here's how how it went

College football's 35 most patriotic helmets

A brief history of non-star All-Stars

With Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Deciding what the All-Star Game means

Odell Beckham Jr. offered professional baseball contract

Orioles keep finding a way to win

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.