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Biffle wins Michigan after Johnson blows

As the race passed the halfway mark - and inclement weather not even remotely on the horizon this weekend at Michigan - Greg Biffle moved passed Truex to take the lead for the first time of the day, shortly before the next round of pit stops saw the off-sync group of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Marcos Ambrose and Kasey Kahne take over the top five for a time.

By lap 130, even these cars had cycled through pit lane for what they hoped would be their penultimate stop of the day. Biffle, Truex and Kenseth were back in control of the race, but they still had to fit in two more stops in the remaining 70 laps. Lurking back in eighth position with only one more visit to pit road to go, Earnhardt and his like-minded companions looked to have the whip hand.

That situation changed when Kurt Busch hit the wall in turn 3 on lap 136. The leading group realised the danger they were facing and now fitted in their own last-but-one stops of the day, essentially equalising the pit stop situation albeit leaving the Hendrick trio of Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne in control for the restart on lap 143. That green flag barely lasted a lap before Juan Montoya's tyre blew and shredded his car bodywork, scattering debris all over the speedway.

"Well, anything that could go wrong today did," sighed Montoya, after nursing home the patched-up #42 to the end of the race in 26th place.

Matt Kenseth's hopes of a race win were also dealt a blow at the next restart on lap 148 when he too suffered a flat tyre. While fortunately it didn't blow apart like Montoya's did, it still wrecked his hopes of a strong finish.

"We just didn't really pit for fuel at the right time, but Greg was on the same strategy and won the race," Kenseth explained after finishing in 17th position. "We kept getting stuck in the wrong lane on restarts and had some sub-par pit stops and had a flat tyre and just couldn't recover from that."

Jimmie Johnson was now the strongest of the Hendrick cars and pulled ahead of Earnhardt in turn 4 for the lead on lap 152, with Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer in close pursuit.

Earnhardt was one of the first to come in for his final pit stop on lap 163 and most of the cars followed suit soon after, but Sam Hornish Jr. held out for a dozen laps including one that saw him clocked at a phenomenal 211 mph going into turn 1 as he tried to make the most of his shifted strategy.

Trevor Bayne pitted a lap later, but his next run lasted just five laps before a tyre problem sent him into the wall on lap 180 to bring out the seventh caution of the afternoon with 20 laps remaining.

"We blew a left front," Bayne explained. "We had two runs of taking just rights and that bit us there. I slid them getting in the box and flat spotted the tyre. It had a little vibration before it blew. I was hoping it let go on the straightaway and it did let go finally - when it did it blew up and took us right into the wall."




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)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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