NASCAR Biffle in a breeze in Marketplace
The points standings did a flip-flop as No. 2 Jeff Gordon took over the No. 1 spot from Jimmie Johnson.
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) -- The only thing Mark Martin disliked about finishing second was his inability to challenge teammate Greg Biffle.
"I'm disappointed that I didn't get to make him work for it," Martin said Sunday after overcoming a pit mistake to regain the second spot.
Biffle made it look easy, leading a race-high 73 of 200 laps in the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
"The guys did a great job and I didn't make any mistakes, which is pretty unusual for me," said Biffle, who has struggled through most of his 65-race Nextel Cup career.
The only driver to win both the Busch and Craftsman Truck series championships finished 20th in points last year as a rookie and failed to become a contender this season. He had just one top 10-finish in the first 19 races this season and is not a contender for NASCAR's new "Chase for the Nextel Cup" championship playoff.
But he's doing much better recently, with finishes of fourth at Pocono and sixth at Indianapolis before a disappointing 35th-place run a week ago on the road course at Watkins Glen.
"It's been tough at times this season, but I knew we could be in Victory Lane," Biffle said. "We've got this 16 car ironed out."
Unlike Biffle, who is 18th in the points, Martin is battling for a spot in NASCAR's championship playoff. That prompted the four-time series runner-up to gamble for track position late in the race.
Martin and crew chief Pat Tryson chose to take only two tires on their final pit stop, while Biffle and the rest of the leaders took four. That got Martin to second place, but he was unable to come close to chasing down Biffle's Ford.
Biffle pulled steadily away from Martin's Taurus in the closing laps, beating his Roush Racing teammate to the finish line by 8.216 seconds -- nearly half the front straightaway.
"I was a little bit concerned because you never know what Mark Martin has up his sleeve," Biffle said. "He's always an aggressive race-car driver. Thank goodness he took two tires. I knew it was over then."
The driver from Vancouver, Wash., averaged 139.063 mph, slowed by a record-tying nine caution flags on the 2-mile oval.
Martin, who won earlier this year in Dover but has had an up-and-down season, lost ground when a crewman failed to get a lugnut tightened on his left rear tire during a pit stop on the 130th lap. Martin was leading before that stop but fell to 23rd for the ensuing restart after being penalized by NASCAR for the loose lugnut.
Martin refused to blame his team for losing the race.
"Everybody has problems and mistakes, including the driver," he said. "I pile this thing into the concrete once in a while, too."
There are only three more races remaining before the field is set for championship showdown, when the top 10 drivers in the standings compete over the last 10 events for the title.
The pre-championship picture tightened up Sunday when Jimmie Johnson -- who took the lead with a fourth-place run here in June and led by 232 points just three weeks ago -- had an engine failure for the third straight week and finished 40th. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon moved to the top.
The four-time series champion, who last led the points at the end of his title run in 2001, is 68 ahead of Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 21st Sunday, is 139 behind.