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What looked to be a visit to victory lane in the making turned bitterly disappointing for Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn as Johnson lost his engine with less than five laps to go in the 200-lap event. Johnson led four times for 23 laps in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet but finished 27th, which dropped him from the top spot to fourth in the point standings. He is now 28 points out of the lead with three races left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship begins.
Johnson had his work cut out for him from the beginning Sunday. He was forced to start the race at the rear of the field due to an engine change prior to Saturday practice. But Johnson wasted little time in getting into the top-10. By lap 70, he was riding comfortably in eighth. He pitted for the final time with 34 laps to go and returned to the track 13th. Few cars were on Johnson’s pit cycle at that point and, once the field had cycled through its final stops, the battle for the lead appeared to be between him and the No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski. Johnson passed Keselowski with 10 laps to go but, just a handful of laps later, radioed that his engine was “laying down.” By lap 195, he was headed to the garage, ending the day in 27th place.
Johnson has come close to victory several times at Michigan only to have victory snatched from him in the closing laps due to a variety of issues, including running out of fuel on several occasions. The track is one of only five where Johnson has not won. Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International are the others.
Greg Biffle won the Pure Michigan 400 to score his 18th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his third at Michigan.
Brad Keselowski finished .416 of a second behind Biffle in the runner-up spot, while Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr., comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 35 laps, with 15 drivers failing to finish the 201-lap race, which was extended one lap beyond its scheduled distance by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 23 of 36 complete, Earnhardt takes over the lead for Hendrick Motorsports in the championship point standings. He is third with 801 points, 22 behind new series leader Greg Biffle and 107 ahead of 11th. Johnson is fourth with 795 points, 28 behind first and 101 ahead of 11th. Kahne is in 11th place with 694 points, 129 out of first and 33 out of 10th. Jeff Gordon is 16th with 650 points, 173 out of first and 77 out of 10th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday, Aug. 25 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.