BROOKLYN, Mich. — So much for Hendrick Motorsports lapping the competition again this year.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Casey Mears are winless through 14 races, while Jimmie Johnson has picked up the lone victory for the star-studded team that won half of the 36 races last year.

"We don't know exactly what is going on," Johnson acknowledged Friday before rain wiped out qualifying for the Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Earnhardt, with six top-five finishes, ranks third in the standings. Johnson is sixth, Gordon eighth and Mears is lagging at 26th with just two top-10 performances.

Credit — or blame — for Hendrick falling back to the pack seems to be tied to the Car of Tomorrow being used exclusively in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series this year, creating parity today.

"Right now, we're just trying to catch up," said Johnson, the two-time defending Cup champion. "There are guys that have figured it out and are doing a great job with it. We're working hard to try to figure it out."

Hendrick's teams seemed to have the answers last season.

When the standardized car was phased in last season for 16 races, Hendrick won nine of those events — including the first five.

A year ago Friday, Earnhardt Jr. officially left his late father's company to join Hendrick and ended five weeks of recruiting for NASCAR's most popular driver.

"I've got less stress on me, but I haven't changed a whole lot," Earnhardt said.

Junior replaced Kyle Busch, who moved to Joe Gibbs Racing and leads Cup with four wins. Busch, who will start from the pole, goes into Sunday's race 21 points ahead of Jeff Burton in the standings.


BIFFLE TO THE BANK: Gregg Biffle and Roush-Fenway Racing are nearing an agreement on a three-year contract.

"The reality is we're really close," said Biffle, who has been trying to complete this deal for several weeks.

Biffle said last week at Pocono that he hoped to have his deal done by Sunday's Lifelock 400, but now expects it to be completed next week.

"I was planning on being out of the country. I've changed my plans," he said. "We're going to do a brake test on Wednesday, so I think I'm going to have some time to get things resolved."

Biffle, who has five top-five finishes, is seventh in the standings. He has won 12 Cup races in his career.

——— SHOCKED BY SUIT: At least one driver was taken aback by a $225 million lawsuit filed Tuesday against NASCAR by a former official, who accuses the series and several management officials of racial discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliatory termination.

"I was certainly shocked to see that," Jimmie Johnson said. "Our sport is a big sport and I don't think it matters — race or gender. We see it work in the sport every day."

Mauricia Grant, who is black, worked as a technical inspector for NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.

NASCAR chairman Brian France has said the racing circuit learned of her claims for the first time when the lawsuit was filed.


JUST VISITING: IndyCar star Tony Kanaan was spotted in the Sprint Cup paddock Friday, but he quickly cut short any thoughts that he might be the next open-wheel driver to make the jump to NASCAR.

The Brazilian driver was here to visit former teammate and old friend Dario Franchitti, one of the open-wheel stars who has made the move to stock cars.

"Don't start anything, please," Kanaan said, grinning. "I'm just here to support my friend."

Kanaan has raced at MIS in the past, but he said this visit was very different.

"I came here as a race fan today. First of all, I drove here from Indianapolis," he explained. "I've always flown before. And I've never had go to registration before. I did laps around the place trying to find it.

"And I've never been here with so many people," he added, referring to the fact that open-wheel races at MIS in recent years had sparse attendance. "This is NASCARtown. It's a whole different place with all these people."

Kanaan said he was just here for the day.

"I have a wife and eight-month-old son at home in Miami, so I have to get home for Father's Day," he said.


AP Auto Racing Writer Mike Harris contributed to this report.