Gordon prevails at Michigan
08/17/2014 4:38 PM
08/17/2014 7:41 PM
Brooklyn, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Jeff Gordon won a Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway for the first time in 13 years after passing Joey Logano for the lead following a late-race restart in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400.
Gordon started on the pole for this 400-mile race after he set a new track record here in Friday's qualifying with a lap at 206.558 mph. It was the seventh-fastest pole winning speed in the history of NASCAR's premier series.
Logano, who started second, ran in front for a race-high 86 laps and led the way for the final restart with 17 laps left, but Gordon pulled ahead of him for the top spot. Logano challenged Gordon for the lead on the following but could not make the pass. Kevin Harvick moved into second and Paul Menard third, while Logano dropped to fourth.
Gordon, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and a four-time series champion, led a total of 68 laps, including the final 17. He beat Harvick to finish line by 1.4 seconds. Gordon scored his third win of the season and the 91st of his Sprint Cup career. He also claimed his third victory at Michigan but his first here since June 2001.
This race featured eight cautions, mostly for accidents. Kurt Busch cut his left-rear tire and made contact with the wall on lap 179, which forced a caution and therefore set up the final restart.
"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 for some reason wasn't getting good restarts, so Joey was sort of out there by himself. 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."
Gordon used the same car in this race that he drove to victory in the July 27 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. His first victory this season occurred in the May 10 night race at Kansas.
Hendrick Motorsports recorded a season-sweep at Michigan. Jimmie Johnson won at this track for the first time in June. Johnson finished ninth in this event.
With the victory here, Gordon not only moved back into the points lead but grabbed the top spot on the "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" grid. He is tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Johnson for most wins in the series this season.
"Our Chase has already started," Gordon said. "This team is championship caliber. But we have a lot of work to do. It's going to be tough, and we want to put ourselves in the mindset of right now we are in it. We don't want anything to change and do anything different when we get to Chicago [Sept. 14], other than keep going and charging for those wins. That is what we did today."
Just three races remain before the start of the Chase -- Bristol (Aug. 23), Atlanta (Aug. 31) and Richmond (Sept. 6).
Logano wound finishing third. He was attempting to win the August race at Michigan for the second year in a row. His victory here in 2013 marked his first with Team Penske.
"I had a bunch of good [restarts], but that last one wasn't the greatest," Logano said. "I got through the gearbox good and had the 24 [Gordon] cleared. 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."
Harvick finished second at Michigan for the fourth straight time.
"The No. 24 just had us beat today," Harvick said. "He had a really fast car. My car handled great all day through the corners but just seemed like he had a little more speed than we did. All in all, a good day for us. We just have to keep clicking them away and keep being consistent and the wins will come."
Menard placed fourth, and Earnhardt was fifth. Clint Bowyer finished sixth, followed by Denny Hamlin and Keselowski, who bounced back from an accident on lap 168 (hitting the wall in turn 1). Greg Biffle, a four-time race winner at Michigan, completed the top-10.
Jeff Burton started 27th and finished 37th in Tony Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet. Burton had to spend more than 20 laps in the garage when he experienced an electrical issue just before the halfway point.
Stewart missed his second consecutive Sprint Cup race after he struck and killed a competitor, Kevin Ward Jr., during a sprint car race last weekend at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, a dirt track in Upstate New York.
"It's been a hard week for everybody and not the way we wanted it to end," Burton said. "Really proud of everybody's effort here, picking up and get going after last week. Everybody gave a hundred percent."
NASCAR announced on Friday a new rule for all of its racing series that requires drivers involved in accidents or any other on-track incidents to remain in their race cars unless "extenuating emergency conditions exist with the car."
On lap 97, Kyle Larson's car briefly erupted into flames when he made hard contact with the wall. The rookie driver had a flat right-front tire before he hit the wall. Per the new rule, Larson was allowed to immediately exit his car due to the fire.
Early in the race during a competition caution, Larson and Earnhardt bumped into each other on pit road. Both drivers sustained slight damage to the front end of their cars.
"It sucks we had that deal happen on pit road in the beginning," Larson said. "That really killed our day. It led to that blown right-front [tire]."
Larson finished last.
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