Greg Biffle held off a late-charging Brad Keselowski to win the Pure Michigan 400 on a green-white restart, a race that featured more high speeds and numerous different pit strategies.
Jimmie Johnson was in line to win his first race at MIS, but suffered an engine problem on lap 197 that knocked him from the race. On the restart, Biffle and Keselowski lined up on the front row. The two battled on the first lap, but Biffle took the lead by the time he reached the white flag and he did not look back.
Conversation about contenders for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship this season seemed to bypass Biffle, but with the win in the Pure Michigan 400, he has put himself squarely in the championship race.
Now Biffle is even talking about himself following his dramatic victory in the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. He’s not only an integral part of the championship mix but he’s leading the contenders with his second win of the season and third at MIS, pushing him to the top of the points standings.
“We’re going to make a run for the title,” Biffle said. “I know they don’t talk about us a lot, but they will when we get to Vegas (site of the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship awards banquet).”
Before Biffle’s 18th career Sprint Cup victory he was being coy, admitting he was sort of overlooked among possible contenders, adding, “That’s good. It doesn’t bother me at all. It keeps people from asking me questions.”
Biffle passed Jimmie Johnson for the points lead after passing Johnson on the track.
“I was driving in too low down there (Turns 1 and 2) so I went to the top in three and four and I could get a huge run on him,” Biffle said. “I pulled in about five car lengths on him and then his motor went out. With eight laps to go I could have gotten to his bumper I think, but I don’t know if I could have gotten by him. I would have used the bumper if I had to if I got to him.”
With Johnson out of the way it was anything but clear sailing for Biffle. There was still second-place Keselowski to deal with along with oil spilled by Johnson’s engine. That brought out the final caution of the race with three laps remaining and initiated a green-white-checker two-lap dash to the finish.
Biffle maintained the lead on the restart and beat the local favorite Keselowski from nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., by about five car lengths.
“Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) gave me a huge push on the restart for that win,” Biffle said. “I have to thank him for that. I saw Brad laying back like always and he got a little jump on me. It probably would have been leveled out by turn one.”
Keselowski edged a fast-closing Kasey Kahne by just a few feet for second with Earnhardt Jr., finishing fourth.
“The 48 (Johnson) had a dominant car,” said Keselowski, who remained fifth in the points standings. “He and the 16 (Biffle) and the 55 (pole-sitter Mark Martin) had just a lot of speed. We just didn’t have enough to run with ‘em.”
Martin, dominant at the beginning of the race, leading the first 40 laps and 56 of the first 65, was involved in a very scary wreck on lap No. 65 when he got caught up in crash that also involved Kahne and Bobby Labonte. Martin, his car spinning out of control, hit the end of the pit wall, the concrete barrier penetrating deep into his car just behind the driver’s compartment.
“Had no one tore the car up in that accident, we still had a car that could contend,” Martin said. “It’s unfortunate. I fought it with everything I had, but with where I came from off the track and the speed that I came from and the confines of pit road, I couldn’t miss it.”
Biffle’s victory in the 3MFord was very significant for Roush Fenway Racing team. It was the owners’ 12th triumph at Michigan, breaking a tie with the Wood Brothers for most all-time victories at MIS.
The points race for the 12-car Chase field remained pretty much intact among the top 10 drivers with Kahne and Ryan Newman still the top two contenders for the 11th and 12th wild car positions that go to the drivers with the most wins among the drivers in the points from positions 11th to 20th.