After the green flag waved for a green-white-checker attempt to end the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Greg Biffle held off Brad Keselowski to claim his second win of the season and his third-career victory at the track.
“We’ve been working really hard to get back to victory lane and catch the Hendrick (Motorsports) teams,” Biffle said.
Biffle inherited the lead when one of those Hendrick cars, the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson, blew and engine while leading with six laps to go. Engines were an issue for the Hendrick organization, overall, with Jeff Gordon also falling out of the race early because of an engine issue. Tony Stewart, whose Stewart-Haas Racing team uses Hendrick engines, also experienced and engine problem.
Unable to catch Biffle in the closing laps, Keselowski took runner-up honors in his home state.
“Greg just did a great job, had a fast car,” Keselowski said. “My team just did a great job executing.”
While some affiliated with HMS had problems, a couple of Hendrick drivers were able to post top-five finishes. Kasey Kahne was third, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth after starting the race from the back in a backup car.
Mark Martin started from the pole and dominated the first quarter of the race until he got caught up in a lap traffic accident between Bobby Labonte and Juan Montoya. The impact sent Martin’s No. 55 car into the end of the pit road wall at an opening to the garage area.
“The No. 47 (Labonte) got turned there, and we got jammed up,” Martin said. “I’m so thankful to have a chance to drive race cars like this.”
Michael Waltrip Racing continued its dominance for a little while longer, even after Martin fell out of the race. Another MWR driver, Clint Bowyer took over where Martin left off. After inheriting the lead from his teammate, Bowyer continued to run up front until heading down pit road during a caution that came out on lap 87. That handed the lead over to teammate Martin Truex Jr.
Biffle took over up front and ended the MWR dominance when he passed Truex for the lead on lap 105.
A cycle of green flag pit stops got underway on lap 107, but several drivers who pitted during the lap 87 caution, including Earnhardt, Johnson and Keselowski, waited until several laps later to head down pit road, planning to make the race on just one additional stop.
When those drivers finally headed down pit road, Biffle cycled back to the lead with Truex in second.
“I just got a little behind and got off sequence there with the 88 and 48,” Biffle’s crew chief Matt Puccia said.
The yellow flag came out again with 64 to go. The first drivers to pit during the previous green-flag cycle headed down pit road, as those who pitted later stayed out. As a result, the playing field evened out somewhat, with everyone just needing one more stop to go the rest of the way.
When the race went back to green, Hendrick Motorsports led the way, with Johnson up front and Earnhardt in second. Johnson passed his teammate for the lead with 48 laps to go.
The field cycled through green flag pit stops again, beginning with Earnhardt’s stop with 37 laps remaining. With the cycle completed, Keselowski was in the lead, with Johnson in second, Kahne third and Earnhardt in fourth.
Johnson reassumed the lead with 10 laps to go, and Keselowski then lost second to Biffle a lap later. Up to second, Biffle was in position to take the lead when Johnson’s engine expired a few laps later.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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