Pure Michigan 400 Review: Bizzare Day at Michigan

[media-credit name=”Dan Sanger” align=”alignright” width=”232″][/media-credit]As the 43rd Annual Pure Michigan 400 came to a close, the race was anyone’s game with some of the top names in the sport racing for the lead position. Brad Keselowski held the lead with 10 laps to go, as five-time champion Jimmie Johnson was putting the pressure on him. Keselowski’s No. 2 Miller Light Dodge got loose one lap later and Johnson was able to sneak by him to take over the lead. Greg Biffle, who was running third with ten to go, was able to pass Keselowski for second as Johnson took over the lead.

It looked as if Johnson would drive on to win his fourth race of the season, until his engine expired with 6 laps remaining – making that the third Hendrick Motorsports engine with problems this weekend. The race would finish under green-white-checkered as Biffle held off a hard-charging Keselowski to win for the second time this season and third time at MIS.  Kasey Kahne finished in third position, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose rounding out the top five.

“It was a wild race. We struggled with our car throughout the weekend, worked real hard on it overnight,” said Biffle after the race. “My car was super good at the beginning of the race when the track was green. Once I got on restarts and in traffic, I wasn’t that good.

“We just kept working on it, trying different things. But, we were so good out front. I knew once we got out front we’d be tough to beat. I know that a lot of people don’t expect us to win the championship, and don’t think we can compete for the title. But, we will be a factor when it comes down to Homestead.”

This moves the No. 16 team to the points lead, with 20 points over Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt moves to third position in standings, with his teammate Johnson dropping three positions to fourth. Keselowski rounds out the top five, 47 points behind the leader.

Cautions Breed Cautions

First caution of the day occurred on Lap 6 when Aric Almirola and David Gilliland got together on the front stretch. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, this was just the start of the cautions for the day.

[media-credit name=”Wesley Hitt/Getty Images” align=”alignright” width=”221″][/media-credit]Mark Martin started the race from the pole position and ended his day with a bizarre crash on Lap 64. Juan Pablo Montoya and Bobby Labonte were racing in front of Martin in an attempt to stay on the lead lap, when the two got together coming out of Turn 4. Martin dove low to try and avoid the incident, but sent his car spinning down pit road. His car then crashed into an opening of the pit wall just in front of the No. 5 team’s pit stall. Crew members dove to safety as debris flew from the pit stall and the No. 55 Toyota.

“That was a pretty freak angle that I got at that,” Martin said. “I’m not sure what you could do. It could have been really bad if I would have got in that hole a little deeper where it caught me in the door instead of in the crush area back there. It’s hard to keep up with what exactly is going to be happening there. I was hoping that I was going to miss the pit wall completely and not tear the car up, but then I saw that the angle I was going that I was going to hit the end of pit wall.”

Luckily, Martin was able to walk away from the incident safely, along with the crews on pit road. If the car would have hit any closer to the driver’s door than it did, Martin may not have been so lucky. Martin will continue driving part-time for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013, with 22 Sprint Cup races on his schedule.

Drivers were having a tough time getting their cars to stick to the track in Turn 4 on Sunday, including Watkins Glen winner, Marcos Ambrose. On Lap 77 his Stanley Tools Ford got loose and slid up the track and tapped the No. 78 sending him into the Turn 4 wall. Regan Smith was able to continue, but finished the race in 29th position, 47 laps down.

The numerous amounts of cautions continue on Lap 90 when Joey Logano blew a right front tire due to a fender rub he sustained a few laps earlier. Two laps earlier the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya got into Logano and forced him into the outside wall, causing the fender rub. Montoya finished in 26th position, Logano in 31st place.

On Lap 135 Kurt Busch’s bad luck continued as he appeared to break something in the right front of his No. 51 Toyota and slammed into the wall. This brought out a caution and changed up pit strategy as 11 cars did not pit, including Earnhardt who assumed the race lead. Earnhardt led the field for a total of 25 laps after starting in the back of the field due to wrecking his car in final practice on Saturday.

The last crash-induced caution occurred when Trevor Bayne blew his right front tire on Lap 182, causing him to finish in 24th position.

Chase for the Sprint Cup

With only three races left until the Chase for the Sprint Cup, all eyes are on drivers like Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin who are riding the line for falling out of the top ten in points. Kahne is only 33 points away from jumping into the top ten and continues to hold one of the wild cards that will allow him access into the Chase. If he races his way into the Chase and Hamlin or Stewart were to drop out of the top ten, this would give the wild card slot to one of them. As of now, Kahne and Ryan Newman hold these cards.

Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, and Joey Logano still have a shot to steal the wild card away from Newman, as they all hold one win this season. The wild card option goes to the drivers outside of the top ten who have the most wins this season; so far the only driver with more than one win outside of the top ten is Kahne.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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