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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Greg Biffle led the Sprint Cup points for 11 straight races in the first half of the season but still saw himself as gliding along under the radar.
As other teams dominated the news and Biffle remained steady but not spectacular, the No. 16 team wasn’t often highlighted in talk about the season’s championship run.
Now that’s likely to change – and dramatically.
Biffle, who hadn’t won since mid-April at Texas Motor Speedway, showed championship form Sunday in winning the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Biffle led the final seven laps of the race, including the tense two-lap conclusion as the race ended with a green-white-checkered finish.
He beat second-place Brad Keselowski to the finish line by .416 of a second. Following in the top five were Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose, who set a speed record at MIS in June by qualifying at 203.241 miles per hour.
Without his late-race surge to the front, Biffle probably would have been overrun by other stories Sunday. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were involved in an on-track spat. Mark Martin survived a brutal crash that saw his car slam into the end of a pit-road wall. And engine problems parked three major contenders – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.
Biffle assumed the lead with seven to go when Johnson’s engine expired, ending his day. Fluid from the engine coated sections of the track, forcing a caution and sending the race into overtime.
Biffle held the lead over Keselowski and Carl Edwards for the final restart. Biffle got a great jump, preventing Keselowski from making a significant run at him over the closing four miles.
“I know that a lot of people don’t expect us to win the championship and don’t expect us to compete for the title, but I don’t care what they say or who they want to talk about or what they want to talk about,” Biffle said. “We will be a factor when it comes down to Homestead. I promise you that.
“I pay attention to what we need to do as a team and not make mistakes and do what it is going to take to win this championship. If it is not a story and they don’t cover it, then that is fine, but they will be forced to after Homestead.”
Roush Scores At ‘Home’ – Roush Fenway Racing had been struggling at its “home” track, Michigan International Speedway, in recent years.
RFR dominated MIS in the 1990s but had won only three of the past 14 races at the track.
Greg Biffle ended the semi-drought in style Sunday. And his win made team co-owner Jack Roush the all-time victory leader at the track with 12, breaking a tie with Wood Brothers Racing.
“That is exciting for me to be a part of the organization and to give Jack the most wins at a race track or whatnot,” Biffle said. “I am happy for him. He is great to drive for, and, hopefully, he will get a third championship this year and be able to celebrate that along with the most wins at Michigan.”
Kenseth Moves Into Second – Matt Kenseth had a bizarre sort of day. He lost time with a flat tire, had some pit-stop issues and finished 17th, but he nevertheless gained a spot in the point standings to second.
Kenseth and teammate Greg Biffle benefitted in the points race when former leader Jimmie Johnson fell out of the 400 with engine trouble, finishing 27th.
“We kept getting stuck in the wrong lane on restarts and had some sub-par pit stops and had a flat tire and just couldn’t recover from that,” Kenseth said.
Edwards Strong But Still Chasing Chase – The clock is ticking for Carl Edwards.
With only three races remaining to the Chase for the Sprint Cup cutoff, Edwards needs at least one win and probably two to become a serious threat for a wild-card position.
Edwards had a strong car Sunday, but he finished sixth and remained 12th in the point standings. He is 38 points out of 10th place, the final Chase qualifying spot.
Edwards started third on the green-white-checkered restart that led to the end of the race, but he couldn’t challenge the upfront drivers over the closing two laps.
“We showed everyone we could do it,” Edwards said. “We were as fast or faster than Greg was the whole second half of the race. It is just a matter of getting it done now.”