17 June 2013
Michigan Cup: Home advantage helps Biffle claim first win of 2013
But Biffle was unrepentant when asked about the incident after the race: "This is a competitive sport," he said. "It would be different if he was eight car lengths back.
"When I looked up in the mirror and he was 25 car lengths back, and they said, Carl has got something on his grill, I said, I can't help him, not in this, not right now," he explained. "This is my chance to win today, right here, and the #48 is coming. I don't know if you know that or not, but the #48 is coming."
The #99's problem was finally taken care of by the last round of pit stops, which for Biffle and Edwards was just before the last caution of the race triggered by former race leader McMurray spinning at turn 1 after a tyre went down.
Biffle led at the restart from Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth, while Jimmie Johnson took the green flag in tenth but was rapidly moving forward - retroactively validating Biffle's paranoia about what the #48 was capable of doing form here. Unfortunately Biffle didn't have his team mate around at the front to help him anymore, as the round of pit stops had dropped the #99 well down the running order and Fennig's prediction of engine damage from overheating appeared to be coming true. Edwards was left to nurse the car home the remaining 26 laps as best he could, finally earning himself a creditable eighth place finish but one you feel might come with a side order of dead-eye glares at their stable mates.
Johnson kept coming - and coming. With eight laps to go to the chequered he passed Harvick for second spot and set his sights on Biffle who was doing all he could to maintain his slender lead of less than a second. But Johnson had the edge and inch by inch he reeled in the #16, determined to sweep away the problems that the rest of his team mates had suffered and bring home some silverware to salve their wounds.
Instead, it turned out that even a five-time champion can try too hard: with just two laps to go, the #48 went into the wall after an over-stressed tyre failed on him. The #48 limped back to the garage under its own power meaning that NASCAR could finish the race under green, with Biffle winning ahead of Harvick and Truex - and Kyle Busch, who having laboured all afternoon to salvage fourth place following that costly lap 20 competition caution penalty finished in fourth ahead of Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth.
"We cut a right-front tyre there at the end," said a disappointed Johnson. "I guess just running that hard trying to get through traffic and get to the #16 we wore through the right-front. I'm kind of shocked because we didn't have any issues; the #5 had some problem, but that was kind of a weird thing to happen there."
If if hadn't been for the Hendrick hard-luck horror show at Michigan then it's unlikely that Biffle and Roush Fenway would have emerged victorious, but that's simply how motorsport goes sometimes. Biffle was certainly no less overjoyed with the victory, and after heading the final quarter of the race there's no reason why he shouldn't feel very proud of his latest Cup win.
"It wasn't easy," he said. "I kept working on this car and working on this car. The guys did a great job. The pit stops were flawless. You know, we beat the #48 today and that says a lot. He was really, really fast. Once we got out in clean air we could match up fairly well with the #48, [then] he made a small mistake trying to catch us."
As a result of the late-race drama, Johnson's Sprint Cup championship lead over Carl Edwards has been reduced to 31 points, while Biffle moves up two spots into eighth place in the standings. But perhaps more meaningfully than any talk of Cup points this weekend was the little slice of history that it delivered to the Ford Motor Company in their own 'home' NASCAR event, since Biffle's win represented the engine manufacturer's 1000th NASCAR national-level victory across the Cup, Nationwide and Truck series competitions.
"It's definitely a special day," Biffle said. "Just super-excited for Ford and sure excited to be number 1000!"
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
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