Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Biffle wins Sprint Cup in Michigan, No. 1,000 for Ford on birthday

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Greg Biffle gave Ford a milestone victory right down the road from company headquarters.

Biffle raced to his second straight Sprint Cup win at Michigan International Speedway, holding off Kevin Harvick to win the Quicken Loans 400 after points leader Jimmie Johnson smacked the wall in the final laps Sunday. It was the 1,000th victory for Ford Motor Co. across NASCAR's three national series: Cup, Nationwide and trucks.

"We couldn't be prouder to have this moment come here at Michigan in front of so many of our Ford friends," said Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing.

It was Biffle's first win since he overtook Johnson to win at MIS in August. Johnson's engine faltered with six laps left in that race. This time, he was about a second behind Biffle with three laps to go, but a tire gave way and he fell to 28th.

"I don't want to see anybody wreck," Biffle said. "It makes you feel good when you push the guy over the edge. He made a mistake, and that's what makes you feel good. You outsmarted him, or you beat him at his game."

Harvick was second, three seconds behind Biffle. Martin Truex was next, followed by Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart.

Johnson wasn't the only big name who ran into trouble. Jeff Gordon was out after he hit a spinning Bobby Labonte less than 10 laps into the 400-mile race. Gordon finished 39th, one spot behind Kasey Kahne, who led at the halfway point but appeared to blow a tire and slid into a wall. Kahne's car caught fire, but he climbed out quickly.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won at Michigan last June, was 37th Sunday. He led for 34 laps, but his engine acted up about two-thirds of the way into the race.

Biffle cruised to the finish in his No. 16 Ford. He finished second to Johnson the previous weekend at Pocono, but this time there was nobody left to challenge him at the end.

It was Ford's third Cup victory of the year after Carl Edwards won at Phoenix and David Ragan won at Talladega. Sunday was Ford Motor Co.'s 110th birthday.

Biffle's 19th career victory boosted his chances to reach the Chase for the Champion­ship, moving from 10th to eighth in the standings. He finished in the top 10 for the 13th time in 21 races at MIS, about 60 miles from Ford headquarters in Dearborn.

Johnson still has a comfortable lead in the standings, although Edwards closed the gap from 51 points to 31. Johnson had a chance before scraping the wall late. He still has never won a Cup race at MIS.

"I thought this would be the year," he said. "Most of the time we're leading and something happens, but I thought, 'Okay, maybe coming from behind would be the difference.' But something happened."

Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota changed its paint scheme to the primarily white one used when Jason Leffler drove the car in 2005. The tribute was Hamlin's idea and approved by Joe Gibbs Racing and sponsor FedEx after Leffler's death Wednesday in a crash at a dirt track in New Jersey. He was 37.

"He was the reason FedEx came into the sport and it just made sense," Hamlin said.

Leffler drove 19 Cup races in 2005 with JGR as it launched the No. 11 as its third team.

Biffle acknowledged Leffler's 5-year-old son afterward. "We are thinking about little Charlie Leffler that doesn't have a father today," he said.

NHRA: John Force ended a 31-event winless streak, beating Cruz Pedregon in the Funny Car final at the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. Force, 64, raced to his record 135th career victory, a 4.148-second run at 305.29 mph. Steve Torrence won the Top Fuel event, and Rodger Brogdon took Pro Stock.

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