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Michigan Cup: Home advantage helps Biffle claim first win of 2013

Greg Biffle drove a careful race to the front as his main rivals hit problems, and once he was there he made sure he kept the lead for the final quarter of the race at Michigan.
It's not been the best of seasons for Greg Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing so far in 2013, with the powerhouse team looking very far off the pace at times in the opening 14 races of this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Carl Edwards won at the second race of the year at Phoenix but since then a repeat trip to victory lane has looked worryingly far off.

Greg Biffle set out to change that this week at Michigan International Speedway, a track that the team considers its home venue thanks to its proximity to Roush's operations base in Detroit and their engine supplier Ford Motor Company which has their global headquarters in nearby Dearborn. And that home field advantage really has translated to results for the team in the past: Biffle won the most recent outing here last August, one of three wins and 12 previous top-ten finishes in 20 races at the two-mile superspeedway.

Not that the start of the race had looked particularly promising for the #16 car on Sunday afternoon, as it started the Quicken Loans 400 from a solidly midfield 19th position on the grid while his team mate Carl Edwards led the field to the green flag for the start of the race.

Fellow front row man Kurt Busch immediately took point after of the scheduled competition caution due after lap 20 because heavy overnight rain had washed away the rubber previously laid down by the cars in their practice and qualifying sessions. Sure enough, almost immediately the drivers felt the impact of the changed track conditions with some alarmingly loose handling that left few drivers not hanging on for dear life right from the start. Bobby Labonte was the first to lose that battle as he went for a slow spin in turn 2 on lap 7: Jeff Gordon was unable to get passed him without making contact, the the result was heavy damage to both cars.

"Bobby Labonte lost it off of turn two in front of me," Gordon explained. "It was just such a slow spin that I didn't know which way he was going to go, so I had to guess. I tried to go around him on the outside and that was not the right way. I don't know if I would have missed him even if I went to the inside."

For Gordon, it's another bad stroke of luck in a season that has just refused to go his way right from the start. Although he eventually restarted and ran a few more laps after the Hendrick Motorsports team had done their best with repairs, he still ended up classified in 39th position by the end and took a five-place drop in the championship standings to 16th as a result.

"This season we are having is just unbelievable to me," Gordon shook his head. "We are at times struggling to get the speed, then when we get the speed we struggle to finish because of stuff like this. I thought we were being tested last year, boy we are really being tested this year.

"For years I've always said I don't believe in good luck or bad luck that you make it," he continued. "Just in that instance right there I call that being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I also know that we contribute to where we started. We started back there and we were moving forward which I'm proud of, but the fact that we are back there - I put as much blame on myself. I really struggled this weekend when we went into qualifying trim. I've struggled all year.

"I'm a pretty patient person, but it's testing my frustration level and my confidence that is the biggest thing," he admitted. "We all know how big confidence is in this sport, any sport really. I don't want to see the team get down and I don't want to see myself get down. I have a lot of fight in me and so does this team. I'm looking forward to going to Sonoma."




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Bobby Labonte, driver of the #51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, are involved in an incident early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, climbs from his car after an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/Give Kids a Smile Ford, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/Give Kids a Smile Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)
Greg Biffle and his team celebrates with Ford Motor Company at the manufacturer`s 1000th win in NASCAR national competition with victory at Michigan International Speedway in the Quicken Loans 400 Sprint Cup race on Sunday June 16 2013. (Photo Credit: Ford Racing Media Relations)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team battled back from a bad re-start after the first caution of the race to finish 17th in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo Credit: Campbell Marketing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
A general view as cars pit during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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