Greg Biffle gave Ford its 1000th NASCAR Sprint Cup series win Sunday with a convincing performance at Michigan International Speedway. In a repeat of last Augusts race, problems from Jimmie Johnson helped Biffle to score his first win of 2013, the 19th of his career and his fourth at MIS.
Biffle took the lead from his Roush-Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards with fifty laps to go and never relinquished the point holding off a hard charging Johnson in the final ten laps. Johnson who led earlier and battled his way from as far back as 32nd, looked to be catching Biffle passing first Kevin Harvick in second and was closing on Biffle, but with two laps to go his Chevy scraped the wall exiting turn two after losing a left front tire. Johnson would end the day in 28th.
“it’s just a bummer.,” Johnson said. “We had a great race car. Our strategy was throwing some challenges at us today and we just struggled with maintaining track position. But we had a fast car and I could drive up through there and as soon as I’d get to first or second, a caution would come out and then something would happen again and we’d lose track position. But we had a great race car and I hate having that problem at the end. I had to run the car really hard to get through all those guys and must have worn through that right front tire with two or three (laps) to go, it went down going into Turn 1.”
From that point Biffle was able to almost cruise to victory. It was his fourth career win and second back to back win at Michigan duplicating his feat from 2004-2005. Last August at Michigan Biffle was second to Johnson when Johnson suffered issues in the closing laps handing the win to Biffle.
“It is a pretty special day for us all together,” Biffle said. “It is Emma’s (his daughter) first victory lane on Fathers Day. I am thinking about my dad that couldn’t be here who is hopefully watching. We are thinking about little Charlie Leffler that doesn’t have a father today. It is a hard fought battle. It wasn’t easy. I kept working on this car and working on this car. The guys did a great job.”
When Johnson suffered his issues Sunday, Harvick re-inherited second place. Martin Truex Jr. was third with Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart rounding out the top five.
Harvick later admitted he was having problems of his own in the closing laps.
“My car started to shake really bad,” Harvick said. “That was about the third set of tires that started to shake really bad on my car, and I just backed it down and let the 48 (Johnson) go at that particular point. I wasn’t catching the 16 (Biffle) and didn’t really feel it necessary to have a tire failure or an issue at that particular point. So our best bet at that point was the 48 catches the 16 and something happening as those two guys were racing. “
Matt Kenseth who ran in the top five most of the race, stumbled in the end to come home sixth, while Clint Bowyer was seventh. Carl Edwards who started from the pole and led laps, lost ground during the final round of pit stops and was forced to restart in 24th, but was able to rally back to finish eighth. Joey Logano was ninth and Jeff Burton tenth.
Biffle said after the race that he was nervous on the final restart with 30 laps to go, but that made the win even more special.
“I was nervous I wasn’t going to be the leader,” he said. “But I was excited when they told me I was the leader still and the 48 was in 10th. I knew he had his work cut out for him and we were able to beat him that way.”
Johnson wasn’t the only Hendrick Motorsports car to suffer issues. Jeff Gordon was swept up in a crash on lap six. Kasey Kahne was leading the race when he lost a front tire and suffered a hard fiery crash on lap 104. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also leading when the engine in his Chevy let go on lap 131.
Johnson held on to his lead in the championship standings with Edwards remaining in second. Clint Bowyer is third with Harvick and Logano completing the top five.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to the 1.99 mile road course in Sonoma California next Sunday.
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