LONG POND, Pa. — As he closed in on the finish line, Greg Biffle knew the only person worthy of dedicating this victory to at Pocono Raceway.
“This one’s for Jack!” he said over the radio.
Was it ever.
With Jack Roush recovering in the Mayo Clinic, Biffle raced to victory in an often-delayed Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday to snap a 64-race winless streak and take the checkered flag for his injured team owner.
“I have to tell you, when it got to be five to go, I started thinking about,” Biffle said. “I started thinking, this race is meant to be.”
Biffle never doubted he would win a Cup race again even as his oh-fer reached nearly two years. He hadn’t won since the first two races in the 2008 Chase for the Cup championship. But with Roush in the Mayo Clinic for injuries sustained in a plane crash in Wisconsin, Biffle found Victory Lane.
“We know he’s watching,” Biffle said. “It’s been really tough. We worked so hard.”
It was also the first win of the season for both a Ford and Roush Fenway Racing.
Tony Stewart was second and Roush driver Carl Edwards was third. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who won the last two Pocono races, rounded out the top five.
Edwards spoke with Roush on Sunday morning and said his boss sounded in good spirits.
“He was Jack,” Edwards said. “Don’t mess anything up. Don’t wreck. He’s been through a lot this last week. He really needed that victory. That’s pretty cool. I’m sure he’s really hard to handle for all those nurses in the hospital.”
Roush released a statement calling it a “proud day” for the entire organization.
“They’ve done a wonderful job and this is just the beginning of the rewards that have resulted from all of their hard work,” he said.
Biffle said Roush called him in Victory Lane and the owner said, “he never met somebody that had the will to win like I do.”
“I’m glad he thinks of me like that,” Biffle said. “No matter how grim the outcome can be, I’ll still be digging.”
Biffle’s crew kept the same car after driving the No. 16 Ford to a season-high third-place finish last week at Indianapolis. That finish put Biffle in 11th place in the points standings and now he’s strongly positioned himself with five races for a spot in the 12-driver field for the championship chase. He won Chase races at New Hampshire and Dover in 2008 before falling into this winless drought. Biffle was winless last year for the first full season of his career.
He won’t be shut out in back-to-back seasons.
“The whole company needed it,” Biffle crew chief Greg Erwin said. “I can’t really explain what this means. I know (Roush) is with us. This is a brand new car at Indianapolis and we brought it here because we liked it so much.”
The start of the 500-mile race was delayed by rain, then had two lengthy red flag stops that totaled nearly 50 minutes.
Elliott Sadler and Kurt Busch both walked away from scary wrecks that knocked them out of the race.
Sadler and Bush were the beneficiaries of NASCAR’s safer Car of Tomorrow after two violent wrecks. Sadler was forced to lay down on the triangle track and suffered a sore chest and stomach after smacking the inside wall. The engine on his No. 19 Ford was ripped from the body and smoldered nearby.
He called it his hardest hit ever in a race car. It came a day after he was the Trucks Series race winner here.
Busch’s No. 2 Dodge was hit from behind on a bump drafting attempt by four-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson. Busch slammed into the wall, skidded along the grass, and smashed into an infield barrier.
That brought out the first red flag, for 28 minutes, 46 seconds. The second one was for rain and lasted 17:20. The start of the race was delayed 36 minutes by rain.
Biffle was one of the harshest critics of the track in a recent Sports Illustrated story, saying “they’re going to kill somebody there.”
Track officials have promised changes — like adding more SAFER barriers along the inside wall — in time for next year’s races. The track was deemed by some unsafe after an accident in the June race involving Kasey Kahne
Jeff Gordon, who was sixth, slammed the track and said improvements can’t come soon enough.
“I think there’s a time when we’ve got to step up the technology safety at certain facilities,” Gordon said. “We’ve seen two incidences here this year, and I think it’s going to be a wake-up call for some improvement.”
Biffle had little to complain about on Sunday.
Biffle had muddled through the season without a win and only three top-fives. He’s made the Chase the last two years and was series runner-up in 2005. Before Indianapolis, he finished 16th-20th-35th in his last three races and hardly seemed like a Chase contender.
Not now. He won his 15th career Cup race and joked in Victory Lane he had forgotten how to celebrate.
“We know we have a great team and I know I can do it behind the wheel and we were able to prove it today,” Biffle said.