Philadelphia, PA – There was one heck of a celebration in victory lane on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
Greg Biffle not only won at Michigan on Father's Day, but he also delivered Ford its 1,000th victory in NASCAR national touring series competition -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck -- on the same day the automaker had its 110th birthday.
Biffle's win, though, did not come with ease until three laps to go when a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson made contact with the wall when his right-front tire went down. Johnson was running outside the top 10 for the final restart with less than 30 laps remaining, but the five-time Sprint Cup champion quickly moved through the field and was up to second with 10 laps to go.
Johnson had Biffle in his sights, trailing him by less than a second, when the tire gave way. Biffle was able to breathe a sigh of relief, though, by crossing the finish line three seconds ahead of Kevin Harvick.
"(Johnson) definitely had a fast car, and we got him to make a mistake," Biffle said. "I don't think he was going to catch me, but, at the same time, he made a mistake trying."
Instead of claiming his second consecutive win, Johnson ended up finishing one lap behind in 28th. He was dominant in his Pocono win by leading 128 of 160 laps.
"I guess running that hard and trying to get through traffic and get to the No. 16 (Biffle) that we wore through the right-front (tire)," Johnson said. "I'm kind of shocked because we didn't have any issues."
Four of Biffle's 19 career wins in NASCAR's premier series have come at Michigan. He won the most recent Cup event at this track last August. Biffle had been winless in the last 27 races.
Up until Pocono, Biffle was struggling this season. He had finished no better than 13th in six straight races before turning in a second-place run at Pocono. Biffle now has a win to his credit this year, which will help in his efforts to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. With 11 races to go before the Chase begins, he is sitting eighth in the point standings. The Roush Fenway Racing driver was 13th in points prior to Pocono.
"It's been well documented that we feel like we've been a little bit behind this season, but we've been gaining on it," he said. "We've probably gotten a little more than we deserved the past two weeks with a second and a win, but we certainly have gotten much, much better. It looks like we're well on our way to getting some speed back in these cars and continue to work on them and figure them out and get them to be just a little bit better yet."
Biffle has made the Chase five times, including last year. With championships in Nationwide (2002) and trucks (2000), Biffle is attempting to become the first driver to win a title in all three of NASCAR's national touring series. He finished second to Tony Stewart for the 2005 Cup championship.
Can Biffle make his sixth appearance in the Chase and establish himself as a series contender for the title?
"If you would've asked me that two weeks ago, I'd have said no, because we don't stand a chance, and I don't think we'll make the Chase," he said. "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.
"Now I believe that we've gained a little bit more on it, on the set-up, and we're gaining bits and pieces on the aero. I think if we continue to work hard over the next 10 weeks or something, we'll be pretty competitive when it comes time for the Chase."
For the time being, Biffle can enjoy the fact that he was the one who gave Ford its milestone victory. Team owner Jack Roush has scored the most NASCAR wins for the manufacturer with 314. Since 1988, Roush's teams have won 132 races in both the Cup and Nationwide Series and 50 in trucks.
"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," Roush said. "There have been a lot of great teams and a lot of great drivers that have been a part of it, and we're just glad and honored to be a part of that history."