Greg Biffle took an historic win at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway as Ford celebrated their 1000th NASCAR win.
Biffle’s lead looked under threat in the closing stages of the race, however, as championship leader Jimmie Johnson began closing on the #16 car. Johnson had one of the fastest cars all day and looked like he was going to give Biffle a real fight for the victory but just three laps from the chequered flag, the #48 blew a right-front tyre and slammed in to the wall, giving Biffle the breathing room he needed.
“I was really worried about the 48,” said Biffle. “He was really fast. But when this thing could get in clean air, it was all over. We’ve still got a little bit of work to do with these cars back in traffic but once we get out front, like at Pocono last week, we think we’re pretty good, we just need to work on our cars a little bit. It’s not for lack of effort. This is real exciting for me.”
Johnson’s late race incident ended a bad day at the track for Hendrick Motorsports, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne all suffering issues whilst in strong positions.
Gordon’s race was ended by collecting Bobby Labonte‘s spinning car on lap 6, Kahne blew a tyre whilst in the lead on lap 103 and Earnhardt, Jr. blew an engine whilst leading on lap 129. The results meant that it was the first time since 2005 that all four Hendrick cars failed to finish in the top 25.
“It’s just a bummer,” said Johnson. “We had a great racecar but strategy threw some challenges at us today. We just struggled with maintaining track position but I had a fast car and could drive up through there and as soon as I could get to first or second, the caution would come out and it would happen again and we would lose track position.
“It was a really good racecar,” he continued. “I hated to have that problem at the end but I had to run the car really hard to get through all those guys and I must have worn through the right front tire with two or three to go and it went down going into Turn 1.”
Despite Biffle’s win, the Roush Fenway camp wasn’t all smiles as Carl Edwards felt that the race winner could have helped his team-mate out earlier in the race by cleaning his grille, instead, the #99 had to pit early in a cycle of green-flag pit stops due to an overheating engine, dropping down to 24th after a caution period just a couple of laps later.
“There’s no team orders for that kind of thing,” said Team Owner Jack Roush. “I do support the decision that Greg made to not give up his track position, and we’ll discuss that.”
Johnson leaves Michigan with his championship lead still intact, but the gap back to Edwards has now dropped to 31 points, with Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth rounding out the top five.
Elsewhere, many drivers took the opportunity at Michigan to pay tribute to former NASCAR driver, Jason Leffler, who lost his life during the week in a sprint-car race at Bridgeport Raceway in New Jersey. Memorial funds have been established to provide financial support to Leffler’s 5-year-old son, Charlie.