Greg Biffle brings home historic victory for Ford at Michigan

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Two weeks after declaring that his Roush Fenway Racing team had a “systemic problem,” Greg Biffle has delivered Ford its 1,000th victory in NASCAR with a win in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Biffle had pitted just before the final caution of the day came out on Lap 167 for Jamie McMurray blowing a right front tire and hitting the tri-oval wall. With no need to pit under yellow, Biffle was out in front on the restart with 27 laps to go and used the clean air to his advantage.

Jimmie Johnson started 10th on that restart and quickly cut through the lead pack, rising to second with nine laps to go. He had gotten the gap to Biffle down to less than a second when a tire went flat on his car with three laps to go, causing him to hit the wall and limp back to the pits.

With Johnson out of the picture and the race staying green, Biffle’s historic win for the Blue Oval was safe.

“I was really worried about that 48 [Johnson] – he’d been pretty fast,” Biffle admitted on TNT in Victory Lane. “But when this thing got in clean air, it was all over.

“Everybody’s working really hard. We’ve still got a little bit to do on our cars when we’re back in traffic, but once we get out front like Pocono last week, we’re pretty good. We just need to work on our cars a little bit. It’s not for a lack of effort.”

Meanwhile, Johnson’s late troubles ended a horrible day for Hendrick Motorsports, which saw Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne involved in crashes – Kahne’s incident coming while he had a 3.6-second lead at Lap 104 – and Dale Earnhardt Jr. losing an engine on Lap 131 after leading 34 laps.

Johnson wound up 28th at the checkers, causing all four HMS cars to finish outside of the Top 25 for the first time in a race since Sonoma in 2005.

“I hate having that problem at the end,” Johnson told TNT. “I had to run the car really hard through all those guys and I must have worn through the right-front tire and with two or three [laps] to go, it went down through Turn 1.”

Kevin Harvick collected the runner-up result thanks to Johnson’s flat tire, while Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart rounded out the Top 5. Michigan native Brad Keselowski ran out of gas on the final lap, tumbling to 12th at the finish ahead of Danica Patrick, who turned in a decent run to 13th place.

Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership

Photo: IndyCar
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Wednesday morning’s announcement that NBC Sports Group will become the exclusive home to the Verizon IndyCar Series via TV, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights was the conclusion of a long and thorough process to finalize a media partnership that can build on the recent growth of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

And CEO of Hulman & Company Mark Miles believes the final outcome is one everyone can be happy about.

“We’re delighted by every aspect of this announcement today and these arrangements,” Miles asserted in a media teleconference on Wednesday, also making note of a number of highlights about the new media package. “The increase in broadcast, the number of races on broadcast, is really important to the continued growth of the series. The continuity with one media partner who is committed to the sport and to INDYCAR, who can help promote from race to race to race to race throughout the season is important. Having our first product, if you will, our first offering to fans in the direct-to-consumer channel is important to us.”

Miles added, “It met our objectives of increasing the exposure of the sport, increasing the promotion of the sport, and getting us into the over-the-top (streaming) market. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

John Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports and NBCSN, echoed Miles’ enthusiasm and noted that INDYCAR viewership on NBCSN has grown substantially in recent years, and this new and enhanced partnership, which will feature the 103rd Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC in 2019, will build upon that.

“From the NBC perspective, we’ve seen the growth of IndyCar on our cable network NBCSN. We’ve had sustained growth each of the past several years. So the opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us and makes our championship season portfolio even stronger,” Miller said.

James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, added that this will also help the individual drivers grow their brands and attract more sponsorship opportunities.

“As drivers, we’re out there risking our lives to put on a good show,” Hinchcliffe said. “The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us. As athletes, we’re all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board.”

The sponsorship angle is a critical side-piece to the new media contract, especially in light of several new sponorship announcements for a number of IndyCar teams as well as IndyCar’s ongoing effort to find a new title sponsor for the series in 2019.

Miles further emphasized that new media partnership will do a lot to serve the business of the teams, drivers, and the series in regards to sponsorship.

“I think it’s important to the entirety of the IndyCar ecosystem,” Miles noted. “For the series itself, at some point we should talk about our sponsorship effort, how we think they’re going to be benefited with this relationship. James earlier talked about our drivers or athletes, and they are individual brands. They’ll get more exposure. That will be good for them.

“We earlier this morning spoke to our team owners. They’re enthusiastic about it as it gives them more to say in the marketplace, more value. Certainly that will be true for our promoters of the races as well.”

A few highlights of the partnership are below.

  • Eight races will be broadcast on NBC, including the Indianapolis 500. The remaining races will be broadcast on NBCSN.
  • Qualifying and practice for all events will also be available live, either through NBC, NBCSN,, the NBC Sports App, or NBC Sports Gold an over-the-top streaming service offered by NBC.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also feature extra content to further supplement IndyCar coverage such as archived races and full event replays. Further information about that content will be revealed in the coming months.
  • Details about international coverage are pending.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also do a handful of exclusive live broadcasts for practice and qualifying sessions that are not televised.
  • NBC Sports Gold will do live broadcasts for all Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races. More details about coverage for the Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series will come at a later date.