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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)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
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