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click image to zoomWin gives Ford Motor Co. its 1,000th NASCAR victory.

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Greg Biffle feels right at home at Michigan International Speedway.

He took the lead for good on a late restart and ran away from the field in the closing laps to win Sunday's Quicken Loans 400. The No. 16 Ford driver won his second straight race here and the 19th of his career. Four of those victories have come at MIS.

"It's definitely a special day," Biffle said after delivering Ford Motor Co. its 1,000th victory in NASCAR's three national touring series. "Just super-excited for Ford and sure excited to be No. 1,000."

The win secured Biffle a berth in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and moved him up a spot to eighth in the standings.

Second a week ago at Pocono, Biffle led the pack to the restart on lap 173 and outran Martin Truex Jr. to stay out front. He led a race-best 48 laps.

Owner Jack Roush's operations center is in suburban Detroit and he considers MIS his home track. He was beaming almost as broadly as his driver.

"We expect to be at our best when we come to MIS and I am glad we could pull it off," Roush said. "I was a little nervous for a minute there, but I am glad it worked out and glad we could give Ford its 1,000th win."

Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was gaining on Biffle in the final laps but a cut right front tire took him off the track with two laps to go.

Kevin Harvick finished second and Truex, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.

Johnson took second a few laps before his misfortune and Harvick backed out of the throttle to hold on to at least a thirdplace finish.

"It was the third set of tires we had and they felt a little wobbly," he said. "We just wanted to hold our track position." Biffle still was impressed with Johnson, whom he finished second to a week ago at Pocono.

"The guy was 10 (on the restart) and was catching me with 10 to go," Biffle said. "That's a fast race car.

"We beat the 48 today and that says a lot. He was really, really fast."

Johnson ended the day 28th to wrap up a tough day for Hendrick Motorsports. None of the racing giant's four entries cracked the top 25.

Pole winner Carl Edwards, who trailed Johnson by 51 points at the start of the race, cut 20 points off the deficit by finishing eighth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead near the halfway point and appeared strong, but a blown engine ended his race on lap 131.

"It made a lot of damage there when it broke," he said after leading 34 laps at the track where he ended his 143-race dry spell a year ago. "I'm not sure they're going to be able to figure out what happened."

Jamie McMurray led 21 laps but fell out of contention when he blew a right front tire on lap 167.

The day's worst-looking wreck came shortly after the midway point when Kasey Kahne struck the wall near turn 2. The car caught fire as Kahne was getting out, but he stuck his arm back inside to trigger the fire-suppression system. He was not hurt.

Kurt Busch started on the outside of the front row and led the first 21 laps but spun and smacked the turn 2 wall two laps later.

Stewart ran his streak of top-seven finishes to four straight races and jumped from 13th to 10th in the standings.

There were showers after Saturday's Nationwide Series race and NASCAR gave crews a competition caution 20 laps in to assess tire wear on the clean surface.

The Sprint Cup Series continues next Sunday when drivers run the first road course of the season in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

More salutes to Leffler

Denny Hamlin's crew began tearing the livery off his No. 11 Toyota almost as soon as Saturday afternoon's final practice session ended. When the car returned to the track for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400, it carried the weekend's most visible tribute to Jason Leffler.

Hamlin's new paint scheme was the same as the one Leffler ran for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005. Hamlin replaced Leffler, who was killed Wednesday in a sprint car crash, in the FedEx-sponsored ride.

It took some scrambling to make it happen.

"He was the reason FedEx came into the sport and it just made sense," Hamlin said after finishing 30th. "We asked the sponsor if it was good and the biggest issue was time, but Joe Gibbs Racing found someone Saturday evening to get somebody here and get it done."

Several Sprint Car drivers shared their memories of the late racer, who made 73 starts on the circuit, throughout the weekend and many cars carried decals paying tribute to Leffler. Defending series champion Brad Keselowski had Leffler's Twitter handle on the rear of his No. 2 Ford.

A video tribute to Leffler was shown on video boards at Michigan International Speedway and fans observed a moment of silence in his honor.

"It was neat to see how much the fans and the racing community saluted him and supported him the last four days," said Kasey Kahne, who flew from last week's race at Pocono with Leffler. "It shows what kind of racer and person he was."

Leffler died Wednesday when his sprint car struck a wall at a New Jersey dirt track. He was 37. A memorial service will be held Wednesday in Cornelius, N.C.

Early Exit for Gordon

Jeff Gordon's shot at his first victory of the season ended 52 laps into Sunday's race after getting caught up in an accident on lap 5.

Casey Mears and Bobby Labonte made contact in turn 2 and the spinning Labonte collected Gordon, who started 29th. Neither man was injured.

"Bobby Labonte just lost it over there in turn 2," Gordon said. "He just did one of those slow spins where I couldn't tell which direction he was going to go, so I had to guess and I guessed the wrong way. I didn't really have anywhere else to go."

The 39th-place finish is the second straight outside the top 10 for Gordon, who entered the day 11th in the Sprint Cup standings but fell to 16th. He's still seeking his first win of the season.

"I don't want to see the team get down and I don't want to see myself get down," he said. "I have a lot of fight in me and so does this team. I'm looking forward to going to Sonoma."

Gordon has five career Sprint Cup victories at the California road course.

Kryptonite strikes Dale Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. added Sony Pictures' "Man of Steel" as a sponsor this weekend and his crew sported T-shirts with the superhero's 'S' emblem on the chests during pre-race activities. One crew member even walked around wearing Superman's red cape.

It seemed something super found its way into Earnhardt's power plant, too, as he led 34 laps and appeared to have a strong setup for the finish. The car's engine blew, however, on lap 131, three laps after he lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson.

"We had such an awesome race car. We actually improved the car on the last stop," he said. "It's frustrating, but you'd rather be leading the race than be running at the back and have problems. At least we were strong."

Earnhardt ended the day 37th and fell from fourth to seventh in the standings.

The Zack Snyder film, a reboot of the popular superhero story, had a better weekend. It opened with a projected $133 million in ticket sales, the best June opening weekend in box office history.





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published: 10/18/2013
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