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Biffle wins Michigan after Johnson blows

Jimmie Johnson was looking set to claim victory in the Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup race on Sunday, until a late engine failure allowed Greg Biffle to lead Brad Keselowski to the finish instead.
Greg Biffle ran a solid race all afternoon, but it appeared that he and his Roush Fenway Racing team might have been out-smarted on pit stop strategy by their Hendrick Motorsports counterpart as the race approached its climax - only for an engine blow-out for race leader Jimmie Johnson to hand the advantage back to Biffle at the critical moment.

"We were able to close in on the #48 there on the end," said Biffle after taking the chequered flag. "[I] was catching him and then he had the engine failure.

"It was going to be a great race no matter what. I felt like I could catch him but we will never know. Passing him might have been a different story but I certainly think with seven to go I could have probably pulled up close to him.”

Johnson had initially been sent to the back of the field for the start after an engine change made on Saturday, putting him alongside his Hendrick Motorsport team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. who had needed to take to his backup car after wrecking in practice. By contrast, Biffle had started from a drama-free if slightly anonymous 13th place at the green flag.

Mark Martin had been looking in fine form as the race got underway, converting pole position into an easy lead for the first 35 laps ahead of Matt Kenseth until the start of the first round of pit stops under green. After brief stints out front for Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Sam Hornish Jr., Martin was back in charge on lap 46 with his Michael Waltrip Racing team mate Martin Truex Jr. now in second.

However, the biggest mover among the leaders in this second phase of the race was Kasey Kahne, who worked his way past first Kenseth and then Truex, and then gradually closed up on the back of Martin so that by lap 64 it looked like just a matter of minutes before Kahne - driving the #5 Hendrick Motorsport car than he took over from Martin at the beginning of 2012 - would take over the race from the veteran.

But before that could happen, Bobby Labonte spun the #47 in turn 4 right in front of the leaders while battling with Juan Montoya at the back of the lead lap. "The #47 got turned around there and we got jammed up and the #5 got into the back of him," explained Martin.

That sent Martin spinning into pit road in response right through the fortunately vacant pit stalls. But the crowd watched in horror as the #55 Aaron's car continued its slow spin past the opening in the pit wall located between the stalls of Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson that leads to the garage area: and then the hard edge of the resumption of the pit wall came into play, drilling right into the driver's side of the car by a depth of something around four feet.

If that had lined up with the driver's seat then it would have done devastating harm to the occupant; pure chance meant that the penetration took place just inches behind the seat itself, although that resulted in a rupture of oil and fuel lines that sparked an immediate fire. The Hendrick Motorsports crews were told to grab fire extinguishers and help Martin get clear, and the crowd cheered as Martin popped up through the smoke and the extinguisher discharge looking miraculously none the worse for wear.




Related Pictures

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Greg Biffle crosses the finish line to win the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Safety crews attend to the No. 5 of Mark Martin after an accident on pit road. (Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place racing with Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS who finishes in eleventh place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in sixth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Ortho Ford, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident in front of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, as Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, drives away during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, and Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, race into turn one during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for third position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Truex, Jr. is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Gordon is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
A view of a decal placed on the #14 Code 3 Associates / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, driven by Tony Stewart (not pictured), during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (left) congratulates his son Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. This will mark Chase Elliott`s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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