Logano was able to stretch his fuel out and hold off Kevin Harvick to take the victory at the two mile Michigan International Speedway after taking the lead from veteran Mark Martin with four laps to go.
The key to victory came on lap 158 when Logano, along with most of the front runners, came in for fuel during a caution. Martin who had pitted on lap 155 and stayed out took the lead from Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski, who had also pitted on lap 158, on the restart with 23 laps to go. As Martin shot to the lead, Kurt Busch battled with Logano for second. With a move to the apron, Logano, who had led 50 laps earlier in the day but had faded late in the going, solidified his second place. Martin meanwhile was told that he was two to two and half laps short on fuel. Logano began to slowly reel in veteran Martin as the laps wound down. Harvick meanwhile passed Busch and settled into third.
With four laps to go and unable to slow to save fuel, Martin ran out surrendering the lead to Logano with Harvick chasing. Logano however was able to hold off Harvick to score his first win in 44 races and his first for Penske Racing since he joined the team this season.
“It was up to me on the last restart,” Logano told Examiner. “I had to be very aggressive to get by the 29 and do what I had to do and here we are.”
Three cautions prior to lap 25 slowed the start of the race, but soon the event became a typical Michigan race with long green flag runs. Logano did lead 50 laps early in the going along with Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who all led during the early going.
Jimmie Johnson’s hope to score his first win at Michigan ended on lap 59. After crashing his primary car in Saturday’s final practice and being forced to a backup car, Johnson was forced to start at the rear of the field. He made a brief appearance at the front of the field during a cycle of pit stops, but the Michigan jinx erupted shortly after. On lap 57 Johnson pitted. After checking under the hood, the crew sent Johnson back out. He was only able to make one slow lap however before heading to the garage with a blown engine.
“We were just putting ourselves in position for later in the race with those early stops,” Johnson said. “Then we had an issue there with the engine as I came out of the pits and got back up to speed dropped a couple of cylinders. We were trying to get it figured out and see what would happen. On my way into the pits it finally locked up and that’s the end of it.”
After leading laps early in the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., lost a right front tire while running seventh on lap 135 and pancaked his Chevy into the turn 2 wall. He was able to limp the damaged machine to the pits, but the crew was forced to take the car to the garage.
“It was down on the splitter getting into the corner,” said Earnhardt who was scored 36th. “I got it slowed down pretty good and then started getting close to the wall and put a little brake in it and it blew the tire out. It had a slow leak and I don’t know. We have had a lot of problems with this particular tire and it’s getting frustrating.”
Kyle Busch suffered his own misfortune on lap 157 when he spun coming out of turn 2 while in 19th. His Toyota backed into the wall and he slid down the track but others in the field avoided him. The ensuing caution was inside the pit window for fuel bringing most of the fuel and many for right side tires.
The action really heated up on the restart. Keselowski stayed out and took the lead, while behind him the field battled for position. It all came down to fuel mileage for the defending Sprint Cup champion in the closing laps. That gamble ended on lap 173 when Kyle Busch spun again while entering turn 4. Keselowski came in while the rest of the field stayed out. The move handed the lead to Mark Martin, who had also stayed out earlier.
The restart came with 23 laps to go with Martin leading although he would end the day in 27th. Logano’s win was the third of his career and his first since Pocono in June of last year.
"We knew we needed one more yellow,” Martin said. “I saved a lot of gas. Just stayed ahead of Joey (Logano) there, but if he would have slowed down I could have maybe saved enough. I had to go that fast. I had more speed in the car, but just was trying to stay in the lead."
Behind Harvick in second, Kurt Busch held on for third, Paul Menard scored his first top five of the season with a forth, while Clint Bowyer overcame a spin on the first lap to finish fifth.
Marcos Ambrose finished sixth, Kasey Kahne seventh with Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 10.
Despite a 40th place finish, Johnson maintains his points lead by 41 over Bowyer in second as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I’m not overly concerned,” Johnson who is the only driver currently locked in the Chase said. “I hate having momentum not work in our favor late in the regular season. I think we would have had a very strong race today if not a win. That momentum is key rolling into the Chase. That is the biggest downfall to me.”