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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)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS stops in the pits on his way to his win Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #55 Fronius USA/Viva Auto Group Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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