Mayfield gambles for Michigan win

Jeremy Mayfield wasn't the fastest car in the field, but he did get the best fuel mileage and won the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mayfield started 11th and spent most of the day in the middle of the pack. He pitted...

Jeremy Mayfield wasn't the fastest car in the field, but he did get the best fuel mileage and won the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Mayfield started 11th and spent most of the day in the middle of the pack. He pitted for the final time on lap 148 and led the final six laps to claim his first win of the year.

"We came in and knew that if it went caution free we had a shot to win this race," said Mayfield, who inherited the lead when Carl Edwards pitted in the closing laps. "We're pretty excited. It was a great afternoon. We kept our Dodge Charger running all day -- kept it out of trouble. (We) took a big chance. It's pretty cool that we won the race like that."

Scott Riggs also stretched his fuel mileage and finished second -- his best finish in the Nextel Cup Series.

"It's good for all of us, especially the way we've been the last couple of months," said Riggs, whose previous best finish was fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500. "We take gambles like that all the time, they just never pay off. It paid off this time."

Edwards and Roush Racing teammate Matt Kenseth thought they were battling for the lead in the closing laps. Kenseth had fresher tires and passed Edwards with four laps to go. He was hoping to see Mayfield and Riggs run out of fuel.

"It was a great day for the guys," said Kenseth, who claimed his sixth straight top-10 finish at MIS. "We kept making adjustments to the car and got good enough. Until two to go, I thought I was racing Carl for the win. It's great to be up front all day. The disappointing thing is I think we had the car to win. We're here to win and whenever you don't win, it's disappointing."

Edwards celebrated his first anniversary in the Nextel Cup Series with a fourth place finish that moved him up to ninth in the championship standings.

"I thought we were going to get it," said Edwards, who made his Cup debut in Michigan last August. "When we look back at the end of the year, this is gonna be one of those races where we wished we had more like it. I dare not complain."

Points leader Tony Stewart came into the race looking for his third straight win. He started 36th, but quickly worked his way through the field for a fifth place finish. Stewart padded his points lead to 126 over Jimmie Johnson.

"A top five for this Home Depot team is good," said Stewart, who has nine straight top-10 finishes. "We just couldn't stay there at the end. Starting 36th and ending up in the top five is a pretty good day. We had to work on it all day to get it to go fast. We'll definitely leave here with a smile on our faces."

Pole sitter Joe Nemechek led five laps before giving up the point to Kyle Busch. He took the lead back on lap 46 and paced the field for 23 laps before his right front tire went down and he brushed the wall heading into Turn 3. Nemechek led 30 laps in all and finished eighth.

Greg Biffle was looking for his third straight win at MIS and was running with the leaders midway through the race, but he ran into an overheating problem and spent time in the pits. Biffle made a late-race four tire stop and rebounded for a sixth place finish.

"We just missed that win by a little bit," said Biffle, who qualified 31st. "What we needed to do was get a good top 10 and that's what we did. I think we had the right strategy. I was gambling on a caution flag. If the caution would have come out, we would have had four skins and been able to put it to them."

Johnson qualified 10th, but was forced to start the race from the back of the field after the team made an engine change on Friday. He took advantage of a pair of early-race cautions and rocketed through the field. He passed Gordon for 10th place on lap 58 and worked his way into the top five by lap 133. Johnson blew past Edwards for third just before crossing the line for lap 139. He finished 10th.

"I think we're getting some momentum back and heading in the right direction," said Johnson, who joined Stewart as the only drivers that have officially clinched a spot in the Chase for the Championship.

Rusty Wallace finished 13th in his final visit to Michigan, where he had won three times before.

Mark Martin, who was making what is expected to be his final Nextel Cup start at MIS, won the race off pit road during a caution on lap 73 and assumed the lead from teammate Kurt Busch. He was running third with 50 laps to go, but dropped to 17th on the final green flag stop.

"That's really frustrating," admitted Martin, who held onto fifth place in the standings. "We just really need to watch what we do here because we're in the chase a no-brainer unless we beat ourselves. It was a good car, but things just didn't work out."

Several teams had overheating problems due to debris blowing in from the grandstands that clogged the front grill of their cars. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Wallace were all forced to make green flag stops early to have their grills cleaned.

Busch lost the motor in his #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on lap 81.

"I think we just hurt it overheating it," said Busch, who led 28 laps during the first half of the race but finished last. "It's really a shame. It got way too hot and eventually ended our day."

Midway through the race, Martin also had overheating problems and pleaded with crew chief Pat Tryson to let him come in to have it cleaned off. He caught a break when the caution came out moments later and saved Martin from losing a lap.

Defending series champion Kurt Busch led a race-high 65 laps. He dropped back on a late-race pit stop and was battling a tight race car in the closing laps.

"We had track position and we felt that would work into our hands and then the car got tight at the end and some guys beat us on strategy," said Busch, who finished seventh, his first top-10 finish since winning Pocono four weeks ago. "It was a good day anyway. We were going for everything we had."

Jamie McMurray finished 20th at Michigan and dropped down to 10th. He is 51 points ahead of Dale Jarrett with three races left before the cutoff for the final 10 race Chase for the Championship.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 18th and dropped to 16th in the championship standings. He started 6th and was climbing towards the front late in the race. He pitted with the rest of the leaders in the closing laps.

"I hate fuel mileage where the fastest car doesn't win," said Earnhardt, who elected to take fuel only on his final stop. "We had a car that at a couple of points in the race was nearly perfect. It leaves you with a sick feeling knowing that once you make that last stop, you're just hoping the guys in front of you keep running out of gas."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports