Less than a week after team owner Jack Roush’s scary plane crash that left him hospitalized still to this day, Greg Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin were able to put their Roush Fenway Racing Ford in Victory Lane for the first time in 2010 in Sunday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.
The win was not easy, however, as Biffle fought to overcome hitting the wall on the first lap, struggling on two tires early, abusing the engine for much of the race and sitting through multiple delays and red flag periods.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s been a hell of a day,” Biffle said. “Hitting the wall on the first turn, first lap, coming off of Turn 1, just scraped it. I knew it was going to be a long day from there.”
A two tire call on the first pit stop of the day put the No. 16 out in the lead for two laps, but the strategy sent the car dropping through the pack. Despite being unhappy with his car during the middle stages of the race, Biffle and Erwin were able to adjust on the handling throughout the event and, thanks to the cooling weather and another two tire call at the end, got the track position they needed to score the win.
“Greg Erwin and those guys just never gave up,” Biffle said. “It was mostly engine. This engine ran so good. I abused the crap out of it all day. This one’s for Jack, we know he’s watching and we’re thinking about him.”
For much of the season, the Ford camp has been forced to answer questions about their lack of success and overall struggles. Of the four manufacturers, Ford was the only that had yet to win in 2010, however, over the past few weeks the ‘blue ovals’ had begun to pick up the pace.
“We’ve been really tough and answered all the questions about the Ford and there it is,” Biffle said in Victory Lane. “Ford is running really good. I just wish I would have won last week too.”
The win is not only the first for Roush Fenway Racing and the first for Ford in 2010, it is also the first time Biffle has taken home the checkered flag since the 2008 September race in Dover.
“I forgot what to do,” said Biffle. “This is big. I was really excited to see Elliott Sadler win yesterday in the Truck Series and I kind of feel the same right now. We know we have a great time. I know I can do it behind the wheel and we were able to prove it today.”
Sunday’s 500-mile race at the tricky triangle was more than eventful and lasted three hours, 46 minutes and 51 seconds. The race started with a slight delay for rain in the area, and once it got underway it was clearly the Jimmie Johnson show – at least for a while.
Coming off three-straight finishes of 22nd or worse, Johnson took the lead for the first time on Lap 22 and would lead the next 96 laps (except for three laps during green flag pit stops). For much of the first half of the race, many figured Johnson would simply drive away in dominant fashion for the win.
That was not the case, however, as Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin emerged as Johnson’s biggest competition. After losing the lead on Lap 121, Johnson never found the lead again, was involved in an incident with Kurt Busch and barely came home with a tenth-place finish.
“We kind of fell into a rhythm there thinking we had things under control,” Johnson said. “Then one of the green flag pit stops we got going and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) was coming quick and it was like ‘Uh oh, business is picking up’ and we didn’t pick up with it.”
After starting from the pole, Tony Stewart was able to finish in the runner-up spot, while Carl Edwards gave Jack Roush something else to be happy about coming home third. Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Martin Truex Jr. and Johnson rounded out the top-10.
The scariest incident of the day came when Elliott Sadler was turned as he slowed to avoid Kurt Busch’s wreck ahead of him on Lap 166. Sadler’s car shot straight through the grass, hitting the inside retaining wall head-on. The vicious impact ripped the motor from the car and sent the No. 19 Ford back across the track. There were not many camera angles of the incident, but one showed the hard impact sending Sadler forward in his seat. Climbing slowly from his mangled race car, Sadler laid on his back next to the car as safety workers came to his aid.
“I’m fine,” Sadler said after emerging from the Infield Medical Center. “I’m okay. 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. These new cars are built to be safer and if I can get out of that and walk through that, I think it did its job. I’m not sure what happened. I know some guys got spun out or moved around 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. It’s not the day we wanted to have with the U.S. Air Force Ford. It’s just a tough day.”
While there was not a camera angle pointed at Sadler’s car at the time of the incident, Sadler’s teammate AJ Allmendinger was the one that got into the back of the No. 19. While unintentional, this is the second time in as many races at Pocono that he sent one of his Richard Petty Motorsports teammates for a wild ride.
“Everyone was checking up in front of me and there was tons of smoke,” Allmendinger said. “I had no where to go. I really hate it for Elliott and those guys. You hate to see anyone wreck, especially as hard of a hit as that. I’m really glad he’s ok.”
Sunday’s race saw five cautions and two red flag periods, one to repair the wall Sadler hit and another for rain at the track. There were 19 lead changes amongst nine different drivers and it was Jimmie Johnson that led the most laps on the day, taking the helm three times for a total of 96 laps. Next week the series hits the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y. for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.