Sunday, August 19, 2012

Biffle regains points lead with win at Michigan International Speedway

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
Greg Biffle regained the points lead with his win in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. Despite the performance of the No. 16 3M Ford, the race may well be remembered as much for who didn't win it.

Jimmie Johnson looked like he was cruising to the win on one of the few tracks where the five-time champion has not yet won. After starting in the back of the field because of a post-qualifying engine change, he'd been in front three times already when he passed Brad Keselowski for the lead on Lap 190. Johnson hit the afterburners and took off. The track ahead was clear and Johnson sped away.

Three laps later Johnson exclaimed. "You've got to be kidding me!" as the No. 48 Lowe's Chevy fell off pace and another of the usually sturdy Hendrick engines expired. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, both powered by Hendrick engines, dropped cylinders earlier in the race because of what appeared to be defective valve springs. The No. 48 simply blew up. Johnson headed straight for the hauler and Biffle headed for victory lane after holding off a solid challenge by Brad Keselowski.

"I got a magical restart on that final restart there and made up a huge amount of track position and ratched myself up into the top five. I passed like eight cars on the restart and that's what really set me up for the win today, to make a run at the 48 car." Biffle said. "Seven laps to go, I don't know if I'd have been able to pass him or not, but I sure would have caught him."

Kasey Kahne avoided the Hendrick engine woes and rebounded from a dramatic Lap 65 accident to finish third. The No. 47 of Bobby Labonte got loose and spun right in front of the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya. Kahne got into the back of polesitter Mark Martin, who had checked up to try to avoid contact, and his No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota slalomed toward the bottom of the track. Martin slammed into the end of the pit road wall on the driver's side, the impact forcing the barrier into the area just behind the driver. Martin climbed out safely.

Kahne and Labonte spun across the grass, with Labonte driving right back on the track. The No. 5  Farmers Insurance Chevy sustained only minor damage. Kahne explained, "A couple of slower guys spun and then we got caught up in that. But it is this team. The guys had the No. 55 car (Mark Martin) basically land in our pit, and they all survived that fortunately. They fixed my car; I had some right front damage there. They patched it up pretty nicely. It didn't drive perfect after that, but it did drive pretty closely to how it was, which was really nice."

After a crash in practice sent him to a backup car and a starting spot in the back of the field,  Earnhardt made it to the top three by Lap 40. He gave credit to his crew. "First off, my team put together a great race car last night and this morning that was comfortable and competitive. We didn't have any laps on the race track so a lot of credit goes to the guys on the car. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) did a great job on strategy, getting us a lot of track position. We were able to maintain most of it. We lost a little bit there at the end. I think that last set of tires didn't agree with us quite as much as it was in the middle part of the race. Real happy to be able to run well today." 

Last week's winner at Watkins Glen, Marcos Ambrose, brought the No. 9 Stanley Ford home fifth.

The win was Biffle's third at MIS, his second of the season, and gave Jack Roush his 12th win at what's essentially his home track, breaking a tie with the Wood Brothers. "It's exciting for me to be part of the organization, and to give Jack the most wins at a track," Biffle said.

Featuring 26 lead changes among 13 drivers, the second Cup race on the repaved track at MIS slowed eight times for caution, a total of 35 laps.  Polesitter Mark Martin led the most laps with 54.

The top 12 in point standings are now (1) G. Biffle 823;(2) M. Kenseth 803;(3) D. Earnhardt Jr. 801;(4) J. Johnson 795;(5) B. Keselowski 776;(6) M. Truex Jr. 763;(7) C. Bowyer 757;(8) K.
Harvick 738;(9) T. Stewart 728;(10) D. Hamlin 727;(11) K. Kahne 694;(12) C. Edwards 689.

Complete unofficial race results:

Fin   Start     Driver

1 13   Greg Biffle
2 19   Brad Keselowski
3 5   Kasey Kahne
4 22   Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
5 8   Marcos Ambrose
6 2   Carl Edwards
7 12   Clint Bowyer
8 15   Ryan Newman
9 10   Paul Menard
10 7   Martin Truex, Jr.
11 21   Denny Hamlin
12 17   Sam Hornish, Jr.
13 23   Kyle Busch
14 24   Jamie McMurray
15 30   Travis Kvapil
16 20   Kevin Harvick
17 4   Matt Kenseth
18 36   David Gilliland
19 32   Jeff Burton
20 41   Aric Almirola
21 39   David Reutimann
22 28   Bobby Labonte
23 37   David Ragan
24 6   Trevor Bayne
25 9   Landon Cassill
26 25   Juan Pablo Montoya
27 3   Jimmie Johnson
28 11   Jeff Gordon
29 18   Regan Smith
30 26   Kurt Busch
31 16   Joey Logano
32 14   Tony Stewart
33 40   T.J. Bell
34 31   David Stremme
35 1   Mark Martin
36 35   Joe Nemechek
37 29   Casey Mears
38 42   Dave Blaney
39 43   Mike Skinner
40 34   Josh Wise
41 38   Scott Riggs
42 27   Reed Sorenson
43 33   Jason Leffler


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