Brooklyn, Mich., — Greg Biffle was able to hold off a charging Brad Keselowski to pick up a victory in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Biffle’s charge to the checkered flag was set up after Jimmie Johnson blew an engine while leading inside 10 laps remaining. Biffle said he was closing in on the five-time champion, but wasn’t confident he would have caught him.
“It would have been a hell of a run to the end,” Biffle said in victory lane. “I found some speed in the top line down there in three and four and was coming on him.”
“I don’t know if I would have got there, but we will take them any way we can get them,” added Biffle.
In getting to the front Biffle had to get around Brad Keselowski first, who lost the lead to Johnson. Experience showed as Johnson patiently waiting for a mistake. Once Keselowski got slightly loose both Johnson and Biffle were able to gain positions forcing Keselowski back to third.
“Once I got out front in clean air I could pass one car at a time pretty easy,” said Biffle. “The car was really, really bad in dirty air and I had a tough time with that.”
Johnson was forced to the garage, and on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish Biffle got a push from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Biffle said that push was the push to victory.
“I saw Brad (Keselowski) laying back like always and he got a little jump on me,” Biffle said. “It probably would have been leveled out by turn one.”
Keselowski said Biffle had one of the three cars that were “the class of the field.”
“He had a fast car and passed me legit,” said Keselowski, who finished second for the second consecutive week. “I just couldn’t keep up with him.”
“We just needed a little more speed to be able to get with them,” Keselowski added.
Pit strategy and team execution were spot on for the No. 2 team. Keselowski says as long as the execution is there, a legitimate chance at the Sprint Cup is within reach.
“My team just did an awesome job executing on pit road and on strategy, and everything it takes to make it happen to get us up front,” said Keselowski. “You can feel a little foreshadowing going on here with the Chase coming on and all those four cars running right by each other.”
Kasey Kahne had one of the quickest cars on the track at times, and battled back from a lap 64 incident involving a wicked crash by race leader Mark Martin.
“We had a lot of trouble today,” said Kahne, who finished third. “The guys fixed it and we were able to pass some cars and get back to third which was pretty good day after all that.”
Kahne may have had issues throughout the race, but the engine wasn’t one of them. Kahne said, “my engine ran great and we had a really fast car all day long.”
Earnhardt finished fourth despite starting at the back of the field in a backup car following a spin late in final practice on Saturday.
“My team put together a great race car last night, and this morning, that was comfortable and competitive,” said Earnhardt. “We didn’t have any laps on the race track so a lot of credit goes to the guys on the car.”
“Steve (Letarte, crew chief) did a great job on strategy, getting us a lot of track position,” Earnhardt added. “We were able to maintain most of it, but lost a little bit there at the end.”
Earnhardt said he felt “under pressure” to not make any more mistakes.
“I spun out twice in the last two weeks on my own and that’s something I try not to have happen,” said Earnhardt, who spun late in the race at Watkins Glen and the spin during final practice. “I felt real bad last night about wrecking the car and all the work the guys had to do to get this car ready for today.”
Marcos Ambrose followed up a win with a fifth place finish. Carl Edwards finished sixth, Clint Bowyer was seventh, Ryan Newman was eighth despite battling the flu, and Paul Menard was ninth. Martin Truex, Jr., rounded out the top-10.
Biffle takes over the points lead over teammate Matt Kenseth by 20 points. Earnhardt moves up to third (-22) and Johnson drops three spots to fourth (-28). Keselowski (-47) is fifth, Truex (-60) is sixth, Bowyer is seventh 66 points back, and Kevin Harvick is 85 points back in eighth. Tony Stewart is ninth (-95) and Hamlin is 96 points back in 10th. The Chase wildcard positions are held by Kahne and Newman.
Other news from the Pure Michigan 400:
Polesitter Mark Martin had a terrifying crash on lap 64 after being caught up in chain reaction sent Martin careening through the grass and onto pit road before making violent contact with the opening of pit road. The impact of the concrete pit wall sliced through the back half of the car in front of the left rear tire and caused the pit area of Kasey Kahne to scatter to safety. Luckily no one was injured in the freak accident that took Martin out of the race.
“The 47 (Bobby Labonte) got turned around there and we got jammed up,” said Martin. Once Labonte started the spin Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kasey Kahne were bottled up with Martin. Kahne went spinning through the infield grass and came to a stop.
“That was a pretty freak angle that I got on that,” Martin said of the hit. “I’m not sure what you could do. It could have been really bad if I would have got in that hole a little deeper where it caught me in the door instead of in the crush area back there.”
“I was hoping that I was going to miss the pit wall completely and no tear the car up,” added Martin. “Then I saw that the angle I was going that I was going to hit the end of pit wall.”