By Sporting News Wire Service August 2, 2010
LONG POND, Pa. — With his team owner at the Mayo Clinic recovering from injuries sustained in a plane crash, Greg Biffle found the remedy for the ills of Roush Fenway Racing and Ford’s racing program.
Pulling away from the rest of the field after a rain delay of more than 17 minutes, Biffle beat pole-sitter Tony Stewart to the finish line by 3.598 seconds to win Sunday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.
The victory, Biffle’s 15th in the Cup Series, was his first since 2008 and the first for Ford and owner Jack Roush since Jamie McMurray won at Talladega this past 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. “It’s been really tough. We worked so hard.”
Roush released a statement calling it a “proud day” for the entire organization.
“They’ve done a wonderful job and this is just the beginning of the rewards that have resulted from all of their hard work,” he said.
Biffle said Roush called him in Victory Lane and the owner said, “he never met somebody that had the will to win like I do.”
“I’m glad he thinks of me like that,” Biffle said. “No matter how grim the outcome can be, I’ll still be digging.”
Biffle won Chase races at New Hampshire and Dover in 2008 before falling into a 64-race winless drought. Biffle was winless last year for the first full season of his career. He joked in Victory Lane he had forgotten how to celebrate.
“We know we have a great team and I know I can do it behind the wheel and we were able to prove it [Sunday],” Biffle said.
Biffle’s crew kept the same car after driving the No. 16 Ford to a season-high third-place finish last week at Indianapolis. Before Indianapolis, he finished 16th-20th-35th in his past three races and hardly seemed like a Chase contender.
Not now. Biffle’s strongly positioned himself for a spot in the 12-driver Chase field
“The whole company needed it,” Biffle crew chief Greg Erwin said. “I can’t really explain what this means. I know [Roush] is with us. This is a brand-new car at Indianapolis and we brought it here because we liked it so much.”
Carl Edwards, who came home third, spoke with Roush on Sunday morning and said his boss sounded in good spirits.
“He was Jack,” Edwards said. “Don’t mess anything up. Don’t wreck. He’s been through a lot this last week. He really needed that victory. That’s pretty cool. I’m sure he’s really hard to handle for all those nurses in the hospital.”
Series points leader Kevin Harvick was 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.
The start of the 500-mile race was delayed by rain, and another 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.
The rain was exactly what Biffle needed to win the race.
“I felt like we didn’t have the best car [Sunday],” 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.”
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 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 Busch as the cars approached Turn 2 and instead turned the No. 2 Dodge sideways. After twice turning across the nose of 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.”
Johnson wasn’t surprised by Busch’s assessment.
“Kurt isn’t very fond of me,” Johnson said. “He never has been. I think when he has a chance to take a shot at me, he’ll probably do so. But certainly nothing intentional, and if he’d like to talk about it, I’m more than willing to talk about it.”
Johnson, who apologized over his radio, explained his side of the incident.
“I came up to bump-draft him and push him along down the back straightaway,” Johnson said. “So, we did make some contact. He was already wobbling, and I bumped him, and then it [Busch's No. 2 Dodge] was wobbling some more, then eventually it did a lazy turn to the right and into the wall.
“I certainly feel bad. I’m glad the No. 19 [Sadler] is OK. I understand he took a heck of a hit. Last thing I wanted to do was cause a wreck or crash the No. 2 or anything like that. I feel bad about that, but we were all just racing real hard down the back.”
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 race car.
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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