It was one of those sporting events in which the outcome was just meant to be. That was the kind of day it was Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. And for the gang at Roush-Fenway Racing, it was just what the doctor ordered.
With team owner Jack Roush at the Mayo Clinic recovering from injuries suffered last Tuesday evening in a plane crash in Wisconsin, two of his drivers enjoyed a stellar race day on the ground at Pocono, battling the regular 43-car Sprint Cup field and threatening weather that forced two rain delays before Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards finished first and third, respectively, to make it a special day for their hospitalized boss.
It’s hard not to believe that fate took hold of this race and heavily influenced the outcome. In a race dominated for most of the day by Henrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson and teammate and co-owner Jeff Gordon, Biffle hung tough throughout and among the leaders, capturing his big break from the second rain delay.
A multi-car accident late in the race involving Kurt Busch, Elliot Sadler and Clint Bowyer resulted in the final of five yellow cautions and a half-hour delay to clean the debris off the track. The field continued under caution for 11 laps before NASCAR officials stopped the race because of rain and ordered everyone to pit row with just under two dozen laps remaining.
At the restart, following a 17-minute weather delay, Biffle charged to the front, passing race leader Sam Hornish Jr. on Lap 180, pulling away from the field from there to earn his 15th career victory in the Sprint Cup Series and, more important, his first win in 65 races, spanning nearly two years. Biffle’s last trip to victory lane came in the first two races in the Chase for The Cup championship, in New Hampshire and Dover, during the 2008 season.
“I felt like we didn’t have the best car,” Biffle said, adding, “For some reason, when it (the weather) cooled down, this car just took off. 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.”
Greg Biffle of Roush-Fenway Racing delivers exactly
what the doctor ordered for his boss, Jack Roush, a
victory in the Sprint Cup Pennsylvania 500 in the
Poconos. It broke a string of 64 winless races for Biffle
and was the first for Roush and Ford since last
November. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Biffle’s win at 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway also marked the first checkered flag for Ford and the first for Roush since Jamie McMurray, from Joplin, Mo., won at Talledega in the Chase race last November. It was Roush’s fourth time to win at Pocono with three different drivers: Edwards (2), Kurt Busch (1) and now Biffle (1).
“I have to tell you, when it got to be five (laps) to go, I started thinking about it,” Biffle said after the race. “I started thinking, this race is meant to be.”
Biffle’s teammate Edwards, who calls Columbia, Mo., home, spoke to their boss prior to the race on Sunday. “He was Jack,” Edwards said. “Don’t mess anything up. Don’t wreck.”
He’s been through a lot this past week, said Edwards in referring to Roush, and to be able to bring him this victory is really cool.
Edwards’ third-place finish at Pocono in the No. 99 Aflac Ford followed his runner-up run in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis last weekend and a seventh-place finish two weeks before that at Chicagoland Speedway. For the year, Edwards has 10 top-ten finishes in 21 Sprint Cup races.
A red-flag rain delay brought all of the cars to pit row
with only 23 laps remaining in the NASCAR race Sunday
at Pocono Raceway in Pensylvania. After a 17-minute
delay, Greg Biffle charged in front of race-leader
Sam Hornish Jr. on the restart and never looked back.
(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)
Bowyer, who hails from Emporia, Kan., had worked his No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet well up through the field after starting 40th on the grid at Pocono. On Lap 163, however, Johnson’s No. 48 car bumped Kurt Busch, sending Busch’s No. 2 car into Bowyer. The resulting collision between Busch and Bowyer sent the No. 33 machine back to pit row with a flat front tire, a broken skirt and jack post and a hole in the exhaust.
Bowyer’s pit crew, headed by crew chief Shane Wilson, was able to get the car back on the track, which could end up being a critical consideration down toe road, given that Bowyer currently is hanging on ever so perilously to the final spot in the Chase field.
Said Bowyer: “Starting back (in 40th position), we could just never do anything to get up there (to the front). The team fought hard all race long. Shane (Wilson) made adjustments throughout the race, and we finally got our car dialed in during the late goings,” he added.
Edwards’ and Bowyer’s points standing among the 12 drivers who will qualify for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, which begins with the 27th race of the season, remains unchanged at 10th and 12th, respectively. Bowyer’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing, Kevin Harvick, continues to lead the Sprint Cup drivers’ standings with a 189-point lead over second-place Jeff Gordon. Bowyer leads another Hendrick driver, Mark Martin, by a narrow 34 points for the final Chase qualifying position.
McMurray and Kahne changed places in the standings after Sunday’s race, with McMurray falling to 17th, 172 points away from a spot in the Chase.
McMurray, who has two Sprint Cup wins this season (the Daytona 500 and last week’s Brickyard 400) would rather not think about drivers’ points. “Everytime I pay attention to points, we run 30th. I don’t even really care where we’re at in points,” McMurray said in an interview with USA Today.
With only five races remaining before the Chase for the Cup, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend for a road-course challenge.
For more information:
NASCAR official website
Clint Bowyer biography
Carl Edwards biography
Jamie McMurray biography