Biffle breaks Ford slump with win in Pocono
Pulling away from the rest of the field after a rain delay of more than 17 minutes, Biffle beat polesitter Tony Stewart to the finish line by 3.598 seconds to win Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.
The victory, Biffle’s 14th in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, was his first since 2008 and the first for Ford and owner Jack Roush since Jamie McMurray won at Talladega last November.
“I wish he was here, and I’m sure he’s watching, and this one’s for him,” Biffle said of Roush, who suffered injuries to his face and eye when he crash-landed his plane Tuesday night in Oshkosh, Wis.
The rain was exactly what Biffle needed to win the race.
“I felt like we didn’t have the best car today,” he said. “For some reason, when it cooled down, this car just took off—that’s all there was to it. The temperature cooled down, we really didn’t make any adjustments, and the thing just started going on the restarts and got in clean air, and the thing just took off. I don’t know what happened.”
Carl Edwards came home third, series points leader Kevin Harvick fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Sixth-place finisher Jeff Gordon saw his bid for his first victory since April 2009 disappear when a four-tire stop under caution on Lap 167 of 200 left him mired in traffic behind cars that took two tires or fuel only.
Gordon led 39 laps, second only to teammate Jimmie Johnson’s 96. Gordon, second in the standings, is 189 points behind Harvick with five races left before the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set Sept. 11 at Richmond.
The rain delay was the second time the race was red-flagged. After a stoppage of nearly 29 minutes to clear the debris from a horrific crash involving Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler and Clint Bowyer on Lap 165, the race took a bizarre turn. All of the lead-lap drivers—except Sam Hornish Jr.—came to pit road for four tires, two tires or fuel only.
Hornish stayed on the track, inherited the lead and ran 11 laps under yellow before NASCAR stopped the field on pit road with 23 laps remaining. But, after the rain delay, Biffle went to the front on the restart on Lap 180 and never looked back. Hornish raced hard over the last 21 laps but faded to 11th at the finish.
Gordon was fourth when the field restarted on Lap 151 after a debris caution. Juan Pablo Montoya, who had short-pitted before the leaders came to pit road under caution on Lap 146, had the lead by virtue of staying on the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who took two tires under caution, was second.
Though Gordon passed three cars to take the top spot on Lap 151, Montoya regained the lead on Lap 152, only to surrender it at the stripe a lap later. Gordon finally cleared Montoya through Turn 3 on Lap 154 and pulled away before two quick cautions slowed and ultimately stopped the race.
Earnhardt spun off Turn 1 to cause the fourth yellow on Lap 158, but no one near the front of the field came to pit road, being outside the pit window that would allow them to finish the race without another stop.
On Lap 165, Johnson attempted to bump-draft Kurt Busch as the cars approached Turn 2 and instead turned the No. 2 Dodge sideways. After twice turning across the nose of Clint Bowyer’s Chevrolet, Busch slammed into the inside fence.
Busch’s analysis of the incident was succinct. “I got wrecked on the straightaway,” he said. “Jimmie Johnson drove straight through us.”
Elliott Sadler got the worst of the melee, as his No. 19 Ford slowed and then spun after contact from behind. Sadler’s car plowed nose-first into the inside guardrail and berm behind it with enough force to rip the engine from the car.
When safety trucks removed the debris from the infield, Sadler’s car rode on one wrecker, the engine on another. Despite the severity of the impact, Sadler later walked out of the infield care center.
“I’m fine. I’m OK,” he said. “I’m a little sore, I think, from where the belts grabbed me. It knocked the breath out of me pretty good, but it’s definitely the hardest hit I’ve ever had in a racecar.
“I’m not sure what happened. I know some guys got spun out and moved up in front of us, and I saw some smoke. Everybody started checking up, and I checked up, but whoever was behind did not—and ran in the back of us and knocked me down through the grass.”
* Denotes Rookie
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