Greg Biffle brings home historic victory for Ford at Michigan

Leave a comment

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.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

Leave a comment

While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter