Jeff Gordon got a great restart with 17 laps to go and was able to fight past Joey Logano to power to victory Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Logano was the class of the field on the day leading a race high 86 laps, but the last restart doomed the Penske Racing driver. For most of the race, Gordon was having trouble getting up to speed leaving his pit stall and on restarts but on that final restart Gordon was able to put it all together and take the lead for the final time.
Logano was passed by Kevin Harvick in the final laps and was forced to hold on for third. The win came in the same car Gordon won with at Indy last month; in that race Gordon also took the lead on a restart with 17 to go, and said he had made the restart of his life.
“That last restart was it,” Gordon said. “We had the car to win. Our car was amazing. But whoever got out in front had such a huge advantage. I got a good restart and Kevin (Harvick) for some reason, wasn’t getting good restarts, so Joey was sort of out there by himself and I was able to get to his quarter. When I got to his quarter, I dragged him back and I was able to shoot to the bottom and get by. But he made a heck of an effort. I thought he was going to get back by me; he almost did.”
The win was Gordon’s third at Michigan, the last one coming in 2001. It was also his third win of the season putting him back on top of the points lead; it also ties him with three other drivers for the most wins on the season.
Harvick’s runner-up finish marked the fourth consecutive second place finish at Michigan.
“Our car handled great all day; we just didn’t have the speed that the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) had,” Harvick said. “I felt like we could race with the No. 22 (Joey Logano), but just not with the No. 24. But all in all, it was a good day for the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet; I’d like to thank Budweiser, Outback, Chevrolet, and Mobil 1 for all they do and everybody at SHR for keeping their heads down and doing everything they can do to keep these cars running fast. We’ve been very consistent for the last month. That’s really what we were looking for and speed is still there. We’ve got a little bit of work to do, but all in all we’re making headway.”
Paul Menard was fourth behind Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth.
“I had a bunch of good ones,” Logano said of his restarts. “The last one wasn’t the greatest. I got through the gear box good and had the 24 (Gordon) cleared and I should have pulled down in front of him and got that draft but he got up next to me and pulled me back so hard that I couldn’t get away from him.”
“I knew I was really good into one and that was his weak point,” Logano added. “I drove it off there and got him wiggled a little bit getting underneath him and cleared him again but he was able to pull me back again off the corner and then I got loose under him trying to maintain what I had and came in third.”
Gordon started from the pole and raced side by side with Joey Logano when the green fell; Logano was able to move ahead of Gordon and take the lead at the end of the first lap. Kyle Busch brought out the first caution on lap 4 when he hit the wall exiting turn 4; he lost the right front tire and was sent into the turn 1 wall. Busch was forced into the garage. None of the leaders pitted, with only Jimmie Johnson coming in.
The green came out on lap 8 and Logano was able to reassume the lead. Kevin Harvick was able to get past Carl Edwards to take over the third spot. Soon Edwards was sliding back. The second caution came out on lap 21 it was a scheduled one due to overnight rain showers.
The leaders came in for stops, with only Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson staying out. . Brad Keselowski was able to win the race off pit road; Logano was second, Gordon third. Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got together on pit road with both sustaining damage. On the restart the field had yet to complete a lap when Danica Patrick got into Jeff Burton and spun; the ensuing crash involved seven cars including Justin Allgaier, Martin Truex Jr., Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth among others. Kenseth was among the survivors forced to the garage, he was followed by Bayne and Allgaier.
Johnson was the leader when caution three came out for the crash. After an extended caution the green came back out on lap 31; Johnson went to the lead closely challenged by Logano. Caution 4 came out for debris on lap 37. Johnson and Newman came in while most others stayed out. Logano reassumed the lead. Johnson restarted 21st when the green came out on lap 41. Upfront Logano pulled ahead of Gordon. Gordon never strayed far and was able to get the lead from Logano on lap 58.
Gordon led a large group in for green flag stops on lap 63. Part of the group was Logano who was able to get past Gordon during the stops and win the race off pit road. Earnhardt led briefly before pitting, followed by Johnson who took over the lead on lap 70. Johnson pitted from the lead on lap 76; he reported a broken shift lever and rolled slowly off pit road as he tried to put vice grips on the remnants of the lever.
On the track, Gordon was able to get around Logano and was back in the lead; Harvick got by Logano and took over second on lap 81. Jeff Burton, filling in for Tony Stewart, was forced to the garage with an electrical problem.
Kyle Larson blew a right front tire and hit the wall hard on lap 97 bringing out the fifth caution; the car burst into flames and slid to a stop along the wall between turns 3 and 4. Larson was able to climb from the car, but his day was done. Logano had just pitted. Under the caution, Johnson pitted and the crew worked to repair the shift lever; he would pit again several times but was finally able to make repairs, he restarted 26th one lap down. Soon the leaders came in for their stops. Earnhardt won the race off pit road taking only two tires; Gordon and Harvick both took four and followed. Newman had stayed out on alternate pit stop cycles and took over the lead. Logano was second.
The restart came at lap 108; Logano was able to rocket ahead of Newman and to the lead; Newman fell into second as Gordon began picking his way through the crowd from seventh. By lap 113, Earnhardt had moved to third. Gordon was back in the top five by lap 116. Newman pitted on lap 123; on track Harvick past Earnhardt for second, Gordon followed moments later.
Logano’s lead by lap 131 was four seconds over Harvick. Three laps later, Gordon passed Harvick to take second; Earnhardt came in for his green flag stop. Harvick, Gordon and McMurray came in for green flag stops on lap 139. Logano pitted from the lead on lap 141.
Gordon was able to get by Logano as Logano was coming back onto the track; the move put Gordon back to the lead. Harvick settled into third. By lap 154, Gordon’s lead was 1.5 seconds by lap 162 the lead was 2.2 seconds.
Green flag stops, the final ones, started on lap 164 led by Logano. Gordon and Harvick followed a lap later. Logano was ahead of Gordon after Gordon left pit road. Keselowski who was leading at the time, lost a right front tire and hit the wall entering turn 1 to bring out the sixth caution. Logano was shown as the leader. The question was if Logano had taken enough fuel to make it to the end.
The green flag came with 27 laps to go. Logano was able to squeeze out front but it was three wide behind him; again prior to completing a full lap the caution, number seven, flew when Brian Vickers spun near the middle of the field. Vickers didn’t hit anything and was able to continue. The restart came with 24 laps to go; Kurt Busch got loose racing Logano for the lead and got into the wall, he lost a tire; caution eight soon waved.
The restart came with 17 laps to go; Logano led, Gordon was to his inside in second. Gordon was able to clear Logano and went to the lead. Logano however stayed close, with Harvick and Paul Menard close by; Harvick slipped by into second, followed by Menard, Logano settled into fourth with Earnhardt just behind. With 10 to go Gordon’s lead was 1.2 seconds over Harvick. With four to go, the lead was 1.6 seconds. Harvick came to within 1.4 seconds on the final lap but it wasn’t enough as Gordon drove to his 91st career victory.
“I just needed a couple of laps for my tires to come in,” Gordon said. “All of a sudden we were out front and setting sail and the checkered flag was waving.”
Clint Bowyer was sixth, Denny Hamlin seventh, Brad Keselowski overcame a blown tire early finished eighth and Jimmie Johnson who went a lap down after breaking a shifter lever rallied to finish ninth, Greg Biffle came home tenth. The full NASCAR Sprint Cup results for Michigan can be found here.
“Today it was more than just a great race car,” Gordon said. “it took the whole team effort and making great calls and of course, I had a good restart again. That was fun. And these guys; they’re just awesome.”
Gordon moves back atop the points lead, Earnhardt falls to second. Keselowski and Logano each move up a post to third and fourth; Kenseth who finished 38th after being involved in the lap 24 crash fell to fifth. Harvick, Johnson, Edwards, Newman and Bowyer round out the top ten. The full NASCAR Sprint Cup championship standings after Michigan can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday nights Irwin Tools Night Race.