Greg Biffle may have had a sense he could win Sunday but he also had plenty of common sense as well.
When Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards asked if Biffle, then the race leader, would slow to help Edwards remove trash from his front grille with 35 of 200 laps remaining, Biffle declined.
“This is my chance to win today, right here, and (Jimmie Johnson) is coming. I don’t know if you know that or not, but (Johnson) is coming,” Biffle said his response was at the time.
As it turned out, a flat-tire ended Johnson’s charge with three laps remaining and Biffle held off Kevin Harvick to win the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway for his first Sprint Cup Series victory of the year.
The win was also the 1,000th for Ford Motor Co. in NASCAR competition covering its three national series – Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.
It seemed only appropriate Biffle was the one to reach the milestone as he has accumulated 19 Cup wins, 20 Nationwide wins and 16 wins in Trucks in his career – all but two while driving a Ford.
“As far as the 1,000 wins that Ford has had here in NASCAR, it’s over 50 years, and we’ve been involved just over half of that time,” said Jack Roush, Biffle’s team owner.
“There have been a lot of great teams and a lot of great drivers that have been part of that, and we’re just glad and honored to be a part of that history.”
The victory helped put Biffle in excellent position to qualify for the Chase this season and compete for the series championship – something he said he wasn’t sure he would be able to do just two weeks ago.
“We went to Pocono with a good car and finished second, got ourselves 10th in points. When I left there I still wasn’t a believer that we’re all in the safety zone yet,” Biffle said.
“Now, I believe that we’ve gained a little bit more on it, on the set-ups, and we’re gaining bits and pieces on the aero(dynamics).”
Biffle's realization that in order to secure the win he still had to deal with Johnson is further evidence Biffle and his No. 16 team know they still have work to do to stay on par with the five-time series champion.
“You’ve got to compete with the top-five cars every week, or you don’t stand a chance in the Chase. We’re at that point at Pocono and here, but we’ve got to do that at all these other race tracks, as well,” he said.
“I feel like we can be a serious contender over what we’ve just done in these two short weeks. I think (if) we continue to work hard in the next 10 weeks, we’ll be there.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Tony Stewart was fifth.
Johnson, who was forced to pit in the final laps with the tire issue, finished 28th and still maintains a 31-point lead over Edwards.
Johnson’s bad finish was the final piece of what was nearly an unprecedented day for Hendrick Motorsports, which saw all four of its teams finish outside the Top 25 in the race for the first time since June 2005.
With as well as the HMS teams have run this season, their absence from contention for the win vastly opened the door to several new contenders on Sunday.
Harvick’s runner-up finish moved him to fourth in the series standings, while Stewart’s fifth-place finish helped him move into the top 10 in points for the first time this season.
Stewart’s finish was even more impressive considering he began the weekend by wrecking his primary car in Friday’s first practice.
“I think we definitely got a lot of luck there at the end, but we’ll definitely take it for sure because we haven’t had much to this point in the year,” Stewart said.
“I’m definitely proud of the effort this week. We weren’t very good all weekend. I made a mistake on Friday and crashed the primary car, so this team had to work hard and do a lot to get us where we (finished).”