Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sports

Greg Biffle takes Michigan victory and Sprint Cup points lead

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Jimmie Johnson looked as if he had already finished the hardest work on Sunday. After starting at the back of the pack, he had moved up quickly, and when he passed Brad Keselowski for the lead on Lap 191 of 200, his No. 48 Chevrolet seemed to be superior.

Then Johnson's engine faltered with six laps left at Michigan International Speedway. He lost the race — and the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead — to Greg Biffle.

"I got it turned around and was catching him, and then his engine failed," Biffle said. "It was going to be a great race, no matter what. I felt like I could catch him, but we'll never know. Passing him might have been a different story."

Johnson started the Pure Michigan 400 from the back because of an engine change, led 23 laps but finished 27th.

After Johnson's mishap, there was a caution for oil on the track. Biffle held off Keselowski by 0.416 seconds in the green-white-checkered finish.

Johnson dropped from first to fourth in points, 28 behind Biffle. Matt Kenseth moved up a spot to second despite a 17th-place showing.

"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," Biffle said. "I don't care what they say or who they want to talk about, but we will be a factor when it comes down to (the finale at) Homestead. I promise you that."

Kasey Kahne finished third followed by June winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose.

It was Roush Fenway Racing's 12th victory at MIS, breaking a tie with the Wood Brothers for most at the track.

Pole-sitter Mark Martin led most of the first 65 laps before his race ended in a scary fashion. Bobby Labonte went into a spin as Martin came up from behind, and Martin slid off toward pit road. His car crashed frighteningly into the end of a short, narrow barrier on the interior side of pit road.

The side of Martin's car was essentially impaled by the end of the wall, in front of the left rear tire and dangerously close to the driver's seat, but Martin got out and walked away.

"I really feel that was a freak accident. I'm not sure you can ever completely fix something like that," he said. "That was a pretty freak angle that I got it."

Johnson started from the back, as did Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt, who used a backup car after a mishap in practice Saturday.

Johnson did not speak to reporters afterward. He was trying to become the first driver to reach four victories this season. Keselowski and Tony Stewart also have three, and drivers earn bonus points in the Chase for the Championship for "regular-season" victories in the first 26 races.

The 10-race Chase starts next month.

"The (No.) 48 has the most speed and the best history as far as the Chase is concerned," Keselowski said. "We caught a lucky break that was unfortunate for Jimmie. … He definitely deserved to win the race. Just didn't play out that way."

Tampa's Aric Almirola finished 20th, one spot ahead of Zephyrhills' David Reutimann.

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