17 June 2013
Michigan Cup: Home advantage helps Biffle claim first win of 2013
The race resumed without him and Labonte and made it to the competition caution during which time everyone pitted for tyres. Kyle Busch also got hit with a penalty for passing on pit road which meant that he was sent to the back of the field; to get back into the top ten where he'd started, he would now have to get past 30 cars on a track hardly ideal for overtaking.
But there was worse news for his brother Kurt, who having led the first 20 laps of the race took the restart in third - and crashed after the #78 broke loose in turn 2. There was a lot of damage to the car and he went multiple laps down while the team worked on running repairs, ending his chances of winning here after looking strong all through practice and qualifying.
"The car just broke loose," explained Busch. "We had a really fast car all weekend and it's a shame that we didn't capitalise on what we had. The driver feels the hurt, the same way the crew and the entire organisation does. But these things happen and all we can do is put this behind us and get ready with the same intensity for next weekend's race."
Like Gordon before him, the pain translates to a five place drop in the championship standings putting Busch down into 20th place, although the former Cup champion was still far from giving up on the season. "We've had these misfortunes before and rebounded," he said. "I don't see any reason why we won't do it again."
Penske's Joey Logano picked up the lead for a short time before the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing #1 car of Jamie McMurray took over at the front and led for 21 laps. Strong as McMurray was looking, however, there were storm clouds rapidly bearing down on him in the shape of the remaining three Hendrick Motorsport cars still in contention: Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were all on the move and looking very strong indeed, Johnson duly sweeping in to take the lead on lap 64. Ten laps later, the three Hendrick team mates were running in formation at the front and looked to be threatening a Chevrolet lock-out in Ford's backyard.
A debris caution led to a poor restart for Johnson on lap 81 - although many suspected he might still be making a sharp point to NASCAR about their handling of jump-start penalties against him two weeks ago, as he said he'd jumped off the gas in order to avoid inadvertently overtaking Earnhardt who had spun his wheels at the green flag.
"He spun his tyres and almost ran into the side of me trying to control his car," said Johnson after the race. "I wasn't going to get burned on that again so I jumped off the gas and got drilled from behind. Then my tyres were off the ground and I can't go.
"It's an interesting scenario," he mused about the vexatious issue of being judged to have 'jumped' a restart. "The distance outside of the restart box to the start/finish line that area is something that needs to be addressed. There is a game to be played there and you can cause a heck of a pile up and take out 15-20 cars if you are trying to give it back."
As a result of this latest restart mishap, Johnson dropped down to 12th place - but there was plenty of time to move back up again, and in the meantime the race was still in the safe hands of his team mate. All was good in the land of Hendrick, Jeff Gordon's earlier plight notwithstanding.
By the halfway point on lap 100, Kahne had taken over the lead and Johnson was back up into third place behind his two comrades to resume the team lock-out at the front. And then the Hendrick dream day started to unravel, as Kasey Kahne suddenly had a right front tyre blow out on him while leading and he ended up in a hard hit with the wall that set the #5 ablaze as he scrambled out to safety, pausing only to reach back inside the car to trigger the fire suppression system.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
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