Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing and Ford Motor Company all celebrated the end of a drought Sunday with Biffle’s victory in the Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
With his third victory at the 2-mile track, his second of the season and the 18th of his career, Biffle broke a seven-race dry spell for both Ford and owner Jack Roush at MIS. Biffle also grabbed the points lead from Jimmie Johnson, who finished 27th after his engine failed in the closing laps.
Brad Keselowski tried to catch Biffle during a two-lap run to the finish but fell .416 seconds short, taking second in a photo finish over fast-closing Kasey Kahne. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home fourth, followed by Marcos Ambrose.
The victory was the 12th at Michigan for Roush as a car owner, breaking a tie with the Wood Brothers. It also gave Biffle the confidence to declare himself a contender for the series championship.
“We’re going to make a run at the title,” Biffle promised. “I know they don’t talk about us a lot, but they will when we get to [Las] Vegas [site of the postseason Sprint Cup awards banquet].”
Biffle leads teammate Matt Kenseth (17th Sunday) by 20 points with three races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set at Richmond. Earnhardt is third, 22 points back, and Johnson fell from first to fourth, trailing Biffle by 28 points.
It was Earnhardt who gave Biffle the push he needed on the final restart on Lap 200.
“Junior gave me a huge push for that win,” Biffle said. “I have to thank him for that. I saw Brad laying back [on the restart] like always, and he got a little jump on me.”
But the push did the trick and got Biffle to the front. He cleared Keselowski through Turn 2 and kept the No. 2 Dodge at bay the rest of the way, disappointing Michigan native Keselowski.
“This is my home track,” said Keselowski, who has finished second in two consecutive Cup races. “I want to win here just as bad as I want to win a race in the Chase — probably more. There was a stretch where I felt like we were going to win it. I had some goosebumps going on.
“But it wasn’t meant to be, and I’m still very proud of the effort. … I just want to get that one more spot. I want to win races, and we’ve been running solid — and I’m proud of that — but we want that one more spot, too.”
Johnson took the lead from Keselowski on Lap 191, but four laps later his engine expired, handing the lead to Biffle, who had passed Keselowski for the second spot on Lap 192. NASCAR called a caution for oil in the tri-oval, the result of Johnson’s engine failure.
That set up a restart that sent the race one lap past its scheduled distance of 200 laps.
Pole-sitter Mark Martin suffered a vicious hit on Lap 64, when his No. 55 Toyota slammed into the butt end of the pit road wall at an opening to the garage. Martin was an innocent victim of a wreck involving Juan Montoya and Bobby Labonte, who spun off Turn 4 in front of the race leader.
Kahne spun alongside Martin and slid through the grass but suffered no significant damage and rallied for a top-five finish.