Greg Biffle led the charge for Ford Racing’s comeback with the 1,000th win for the ‘Blue Oval’ brigade — a win at their home track, Michigan International Speedway — in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400.
After questioning where the Fords stood against the top Chevys and Toyotas in the field, Biffle led 48 laps including the final 32 circuits, to capture his 19th career win. A two-tire stop on Lap 166 offered the No. 16 3M Ford the track position needed to expand his lead over the field.
In the closing laps, Biffle held off Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, who blew a tire in pursuit of the No. 16 Ford with three circuits remaining in the race and was forced to pit.
“I love it when the 48 crashes trying to catch us,” Biffle said over the radio in the heat of battle only to soften his tone after the race. “Let me clarify that a little bit. I don’t want to see anybody wreck; I should have said, ‘make a mistake.’"
But considering that MIS was the site of Biffle’s last win in August – and four of 19 victories – it’s not surprising that Jack Roush’s veteran driver adopted a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, including where his teammate Carl Edwards was concerned.
Edwards had led 15 laps but had debris on his grille and was overheating. He asked for an assist from his teammate to no avail and finally backed off to give Biffle the lead on Lap 151. Edwards was forced to pit from second place 13 laps later. At that point, the No. 99 team surmised the damage was done.
“We just might have a header crack or a tail pipe crack,” said crew chief Jimmy Fennig to assuage Edwards. “We have to thank our teammate for that.”
“He ain’t our teammate,” replied Edwards, who finished eighth.
Biffle, who was also overheating in the closing laps as his water temperature climbed to 280, defended his position.
“I couldn’t find anybody to pack up to me to get stuff off my grille. These races are very, very hard to win. You look at when the last time was that I won here. This is a competitive sport. If it’s not the last pit stop of the day or it’s not coming to the last pit stop of the day…
“But when I looked up in the mirror and he was 25 car lengths back and they said, ‘Carl has something on the grille,’ I said, ‘I can’t help him. Not right now. This is my chance to win today, right here, and the 48 (Johnson) is coming.’"
Team owner Jack Roush, who brought Biffle to NASCAR in 1998, insisted there are “no team orders” in a case where one driver needs another’s assistance.
“I do support the decision Greg made not to give up his track position,” said Roush, who was responsible for 314 of Ford’s 1,000 wins in NASCAR’s three national series. “And we’ll discuss that.”
At the end of the Quicken Loans 400, however, it was a Ford in Victory Lane followed by Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. And it was appropriate that Biffle, who won Roush’s first title in the truck series in 2000 followed by a Nationwide Series championship two years later, should deliver the honor.
“I have been with Ford Motor Company and they have been supporting me for almost 50 years now,” said Roush. “We expect to be our best when we come to MIS and I am glad we could pull it off and give Ford their 1,000th win.
“Greg Biffle stood up in the seat, stood on the gas so hard when it counted and (crew chief) Matt Puccia with his chemistry with him and the spotter (Joel Edmonds), they made great decisions with the strategy on the racetrack and with adjustments in the car, and that’s the reason we’re sitting here.”
NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME
Martin Truex Jr. finished third on Sunday — his first top-five finish since April.
Perhaps his infrequency of finishing in the top three — it’s just the second time this season — is the reason that the driver of the No. 56 Toyota failed to fulfill his obligation of coming to the media center. Truex, who had left the track, called a NASCAR spokesperson to conduct in post-race interview by speakerphone.
The first question came from NASCAR Senior Director, communications/competition Kerry Tharp: Martin, can you hear us?
Tharp: Rather than just take an opening statement we’ll take questions and work this the best we can. Questions for Martin Truex Jr. . . .
It’s times like these when NASCAR is fortunate to have Sprint as a sponsor.
SAY GOODNIGHT, GRACIE . . .
Denny Hamlin drove a Jason Leffler tribute car on Sunday.
The 37-year-old Leffler, a two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, died on Wednesday after an accident in a dirt race at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.
“We had become friends over the past several years and had the same circle of friends, so it meant a lot to me to honor his memory,” Hamlin said. “I have to thank JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and FedEx for letting us do this — Jason was there at the start with FedEx joining JGR back in 2005 and there are still about five crew members on the team that were on the team with Jason, so I know it was real special to all of them.”
Despite the kind gesture, Hamlin finished 30th after the team was forced into a lengthy pit stop to change his right front shock on Lap 77. The result dropped Hamlin to 26th — in the point standings and 118 points outside of the 10th-place with 11 races remaining before the Chase.
Crew chief Steve Letarte retained his sense of humor despite falling 69 laps short of the finish and the opportunity to defend the No. 88 team’s win on Sunday.