"You've got to be kidding me" was the collective gasp from both Jimmie Johnson and everyone watching the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday, as Johnson's engine expired from the top spot with just four laps remaining.
It set up an overtime finish where Greg Biffle got the jump on Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne and held on to win a unpredictable Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
It really was Johnson's race to lose and he lost it. Hendrick Motorsports had battled engine problems all weekend with Johnson changing engines on Saturday night, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart suffering motor failures, resulting in everyone wondering when and which Hendrick engine would expire next.
The answer was the 48, whose driver dejectedly walked to his motorhome, changed clothes and left the track right as the race was ending. Johnson had the opportunity to take a stranglehold on the championship entering the Chase but instead left with questions surrounding the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization.
Chevrolet's loss was Ford's gain as Biffle nailed the restart and never looked back. A casual glance will assume Biffle as the beneficiary of good luck. The reality is that Biffle has been a contender at every track this season and more races are won this way instead of the more dominating fashion - just ask Jimmie Johnson.
Instead it's Biffle who has momentum approaching the Chase, as well as the regular season points lead, 21 points ahead of Matt Kenseth and 22 over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth, 28 points out of the top spot.
The win is the second of the season for Biffle, third career at Michigan, and 18th of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
"Junior gave me a huge push on the restart," Biffle said. "I have to thank him for that. I saw Brad laying back like always and he got a little jump on me. It probably would have been leveled out by turn one."
A note on Mark Martin's dramatic accident, as well as the complete race results can be found after the jump.
The strangest accident in quite some time occurred on lap 64 when Mark Martin was caught in an accident between Juan Pablo Montoya and Bobby Labonte. Martin spun trying to avoid Labonte's sideways car and slid down pit road, t-boning the infield pit entrance. The wall, which does not have any protective barriers, sliced a gap right in the middle of Martin's car.
This will foster a pretty healthy debate over the placement of infield pit road gaps. One option is to eliminate and cover the first opening and have teams use the other openings at speedways. An alternative option would be to widen the opening and install a protective barrier such as tires or water containers.
The chances of a similar accident occurring is small but it's always better to be proactive rather than reactive.
Good race. We'll be guaranteed an even better weekend of racing starting Wednesday night at the revamped Bristol Motor Speedway. The Camping World Trucks and Wheelen Modifieds race on Wednesday, followed by Nationwide and the Sprint Cup Bristol Night Race on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Scary crash for leader Mark Martin (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
Heartbreak for Jimmie Johnson late in Michigan (via TheOfficialNASCAR)
|1||13||16||Greg Biffle||3M Ford||201||47||4||Running||3||26|
|2||19||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite Dodge||201||43||1||Running||4||17|
|3||5||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance Chevrolet||201||41||Running|
|4||22||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet||201||41||1||Running||2||25|
|5||8||9||Marcos Ambrose||Stanley Ford||201||39||Running|
|6||2||99||Carl Edwards||Geek Squad Ford||201||39||1||Running||1||1|
|7||12||15||Clint Bowyer||5-hour Energy Toyota||201||38||1||Running||1||19|
|8||15||39||Ryan Newman||WIX Chevrolet||201||36||Running|
|9||10||27||Paul Menard||Menards / Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet||201||36||1||Running||2||8|
|10||7||56||Martin Truex Jr.||NAPA Auto Parts Toyota||201||35||1||Running||2||12|
|11||21||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Office Toyota||201||34||1||Running||1||1|
|12||17||22||Sam Hornish Jr.(i)||Shell Pennzoil Dodge||201||0||Running||3||9|
|13||23||18||Kyle Busch||Interstate Batteries Toyota||201||31||Running|
|14||24||1||Jamie McMurray||Bass Pro Shops / Mercury Chevrolet||201||30||Running|
|15||30||93||Travis Kvapil||Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota||201||29||Running|
|16||20||29||Kevin Harvick||Jimmy John's Chevrolet||201||28||Running|
|17||4||17||Matt Kenseth||Fifth Third Bank Ford||201||28||1||Running||1||5|
|18||36||38||David Gilliland||Taco Bell Ford||201||26||Running|
|19||32||31||Jeff Burton||Wheaties Chevrolet||201||25||Running|
|20||41||43||Aric Almirola||Eckrich Ford||201||24||Running|
|21||39||10||David Reutimann||TMone.com Chevrolet||200||23||Running|
|22||28||47||Bobby Labonte||Clorox Toyota||199||22||Running|
|23||37||34||David Ragan||Long John Silver's Ford||199||21||Running|
|24||6||21||Trevor Bayne||Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford||199||0||Running|
|25||9||83||Landon Cassill||Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota||198||20||1||Running||1||1|
|26||25||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Target Chevrolet||197||18||Running|
|27||3||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe's Chevrolet||195||18||1||Engine||4||23|
|28||11||24||Jeff Gordon||Drive to End Hunger / AARP Chevrolet||167||16||Engine|
|29||18||78||Regan Smith||Furniture Row / Farm American Chevrolet||154||15||Running|
|30||26||51||Kurt Busch||Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet||135||14||Accident|
|31||16||20||Joey Logano||The Home Depot Toyota||132||13||Running|
|32||14||14||Tony Stewart||MOBIL 1 / Office Depot Chevrolet||109||12||Engine|
|33||40||32||TJ Bell(i)||Southern Pride Trucking / U.S. Chrome Ford||108||0||Transmission|
|34||31||30||David Stremme||Inception Motorsports Toyota||72||10||Electrical|
|35||1||55||Mark Martin||Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota||64||11||2||Accident||2||54|
|36||35||87||Joe Nemechek(i)||AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota||38||0||Rear Gear|
|37||29||13||Casey Mears||GEICO Ford||36||7||Vibration|
|38||42||36||Dave Blaney||Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet||34||6||Vibration|
|39||43||98||Mike Skinner||Phil Parsons Racing Ford||25||5||Electrical|
|40||34||26||Josh Wise #||MDS Transport Ford||21||4||Suspension|
|41||38||23||Scott Riggs||North Texas Pipe Chevrolet||20||3||Suspension|
|42||27||91||Reed Sorenson(i)||Plinker Tactical Toyota||15||0||Overheating|
|43||33||19||Jason Leffler(i)||Plinker Tactical Ford||14||0||Fuel Pressure|