Going into the LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, everyone involved with NASCAR in some way or another had a feeling that fuel mileage might decide the outcome of the race.
MIS has a long standing reputation for fuel mileage races, due to its history of long green runs. So it came to nobody’s surprise that the finish would be so amazing.
Brian Vickers started on the pole as the green flag flew, but it didn’t take long for everyone to see who the dominant car was going to be, as Jimmie Johnson passed race leader Kyle Busch for the lead on lap nine and began pulling away.
On lap 72 the first caution waved for debris on the back stretch. The leaders pitted and Johnson emerged with the lead off pit road.
With Johnson the dominant car early, other notable strong runners to this point included Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya who ran most of the first run in the top five, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards.
Debris caused the second caution flag to fly on lap 121. The top five to this point included Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Juan Montoya, Kasay Kahne and Tony Stewart.
On lap 150, David Stremme spun down the track in turn four and hit the water coolers at the entrance of pit road causing caution No. 3. The leaders pitted, and Greg Biffle won the battle off pit road. This caution happened right at the edge of the fuel window, and drivers were asked to conserve every bit of fuel they could.
The final 44 laps of green flag racing were probably the best 44 laps of the year. Some drivers were going for it, some were conserving, but it was clear that most didn’t know if they were going to make it or not.
The entire run Mark Martin sat in conservative mode. He knew that he was border line making the chase and the last thing the team needed was to run out of fuel and blow a good finish.
The final 10 laps Johnson and Biffle traded for the lead, sometimes they conserved, and sometimes they raced. Martin just hung back in third and refused to chase down the two as they jockeyed for the lead.
Coming to the white flag Johnson and the 48 Lowe's Chevy loses fuel pressure and drops to the bottom of the track. All Biffle has to do is make it to the finish as he holds a big lead over Martin.
But going down the back stretch Biffle’s Ford runs out of gas and he coasts to the finish. Martin has just enough in the tank to grab his third victory of 2009.
Rounding out the top 10 include Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, and Clint Bowyer.
Martin’s win elevated him five spots in the standings, and he now sits eighth place as the races wind down to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
-Jimmie Johnson dropped all the way to a 22nd place finish after running out of fuel.
-Matt Kenseth and Kasay Kahne ran out of fuel late, dropping them to 20th and 21st place.
-Tony Stewart maintains his point lead over Jeff Gordon by 47 points.