Monday, August 20, 2012

Greg Biffle Wins While Hendrick Falters

Mark Martin was the dominant car early in the race, but a serious crash a quarter of the way through the race ended his day, and opened up the door for Jimmie Johnson, who had a fast car for the rest of the day.  But after his engine expired less than 10 laps from the finish, Greg Biffle was able to pounce and clinch his second victory of the season. 

Biffle celebrates his Michigan win (Courtesy Getty Images)
Mark Martin won his fourth pole of the season, and led the field to the green flag for the Pure Michigan 400.  Martin pulled away to begin the race, but the race's first caution came out on lap 6 for David Gilliland, who spun coming off Turn 4.  On lap 10, Martin led Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr., and Carl Edwards back to the green flag.  Martin and Kenseth pulled away from the pack following the restart, but Martin quickly pulled away from Kenseth.  On lap 25, Kurt Busch slapped the wall coming off Turn 2, but he was able to continue on without having to pit.

On lap 35, Joey Logano and Edwards were the first drivers to make their green-flag pit stops.  Martin gave up the lead on lap 37 to pit, and was followed in by Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart.  Throughout the pit cycle, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson led the race for at least a lap.  Sam Hornish Jr. led the race as well, and gave the lead back to Mark Martin when the pit stops cycled around on lap 47.  Tony Stewart began to slow on lap 51, and he believed he had dropped a cylinder.  Around lap 60, Stewart took his car to the garage.  At the same time, Kasey Kahne got around Martin Truex Jr. for second place, and he set his sights on Martin.

By lap 63, Kahne had caught Martin for the lead when he got stuck behind lapped traffic.  On lap 64, the day's second caution came out for a wreck involving the leaders.  Juan Pablo Montoya got Bobby Labonte loose right in front of the leaders, and when Martin slowed down to avoid the wreck, he was hit in the rear by Kahne.  Martin's car spun down pit road, and slammed into the wall at one of the garage entrances.  The car was impaled on the wall, and created a small fire.  Martin was able to climb out of the car unharmed, but was unable to continue in the race.

Martin's car sits on pit road while crews extinguish the fire (Courtesy Getty Images)
Under the caution, the field pitted, with most of the drivers taking two tires.  The race restarted on lap 74, with Clint Bowyer leading Kenseth, Truex, Johnson, and Keselowski.  On lap 76, Regan Smith spun after contact from Marcos Ambrose in Turn 4 to bring out the third caution of the day.  The race restarted on lap 81, with Bowyer leading his MWR teammate Truex to the green flag.  On lap 89, the caution flag came out once again, when Joey Logano tagged the wall in Turn 3.  Logano had hit the wall a lap before as well, after contact from Juan Pablo Montoya. 

The race restarted on lap 93, and Truex led Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Edwards, and Sam Hornish Jr.  One lap later, Jeff Gordon fell off the pace when his engine began to fail.  On lap 102, Biffle was able to take the lead away from Truex.  Biffle had been closely following Truex for most of the run.  On lap 107, Truex pulled onto pit road to make his pit stop, making it a two-stop race from then on.  On lap 120, the leaders were on a different pit strategy than the rest of the field, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led Johnson, Hamlin, Ambrose and Kahne.  Five laps later, Earnhardt made his pit stop, handing the lead to Johnson.  Johnson pitted two laps later.

When the stops had cycled through, Biffle led Truex, Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Hornish.  On lap 136, the caution came out for Kurt Busch, who slapped the wall in Turn 3.  The race restarted on lap 141, and Earnhardt led Johnson and Kahne to the green flag.  The race didn't stay green for long, because the caution came out on lap 143, when Juan Pablo Montoya blew a left-front tire and it shredded his fender, spreading debris all over the track.

Aric Almirola leads a pack of cars (Courtesy Getty Images)
Earnhardt led Johnson, Keselowski, Kahne, and Biffle to the green flag on lap 148, and Johnson stayed close to his teammate's bumper.  On lap 152, Johnson got a run on the 88 and was able to take the lead coming off of Turn 4.  On lap 163, Earnhardt pitted for his last scheduled stop of the day.  Johnson pitted on lap 166, and Keselowski pitted from the lead on lap 169.  On lap 180, Trevor Bayne had a tire problem that sent him into the outside wall, bringing out the race's seventh caution.

Brad Keselowski led the field to the green flag on lap 187, and was followed by Johnson, Kahne, Earnhardt, and Biffle.  Johnson got past Keselowski on lap 190 to take the lead.  Biffle got around Keselowski for second on lap 191, but it seemed that he was going to run out of time.  But on lap 194, Johnson began to slow, and Biffle took the lead.  The next lap, Johnson's engine expired, bringing out the final caution of the day.  On lap 200, the race went back to green, with Biffle leading Keselowski for the green-white-checkered.  Biffle was able to hold off Keselowski for his second win of the season.

Kasey Kahne finished third, and was followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Last week's winner Marcos Ambrose finished fifth.  Carl Edwards was sixth, and Clint Bowyer was seventh.  Ryan Newman got a much-needed eighth place finish, and Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the Top 10.  Kyle Busch finished 13th after an uneventful day, and Matt Kenseth finished 17th after having a tire problem.  Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished 27th and 28th, respectively, after both of their Hendrick engines expired.  Tony Stewart, who also had a Hendrick engine, finished 32nd after his engine expired.  Mark Martin finished 35th after his scary wreck on lap 64.  Next week, Brian Vickers will return to the No. 55 car; Martin's next race will be September 2nd at Atlanta.

An eventful race at Michigan finished with a bang.  But the one thing that will be on everyone's mind is the horrific wreck by Mark Martin.  If the car had hit just a foot closer to the front of the car, the outcome may have been very different.  Thankfully, Martin was able to walk away from the wreck, and he will be able to return to the Aaron's Dream Machine.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Bristol Motor Speedway for a Saturday Night Shootout.  The IRWIN Tools Night Race can be seen at 7 p.m., only on ABC.

Courtesy Getty Images

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