Jeff Gordon got out in front of Joey Logano on a restart just inside 20 laps to go in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday and remained up front the rest of the way to claim his third win of the season.
"It wasn't easy," Gordon said. "It's never easy to win at any of these tracks, especially when aerodynamics and track position mean so much. I thought we learned a lot the last time we were here on track position. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) just called a perfect race. I kept getting on that inside lane and just not getting very good restarts."
The win was Gordon's first at Michigan International Speedway since 2001.
Logano got back beside Gordon right after the restart in an attempt to retake the lead, but Gordon got a push from Kevin Harvick to maintain the position, and Harvick got by Logano to take second.
"Our car handled great all day; we just didn't have the speed that the No. 24 (Gordon) had," Harvick said. I felt like we could race with the No. 22 (Logano), but just not with the No. 24. But all in all, it was a good day for the Jimmy John's Chevrolet."
Logano also lost third to Paul Menard for a time, but recovered to take back the spot for a top-three finish.
"I had a bunch of good ones," Logano said about his restarts. "The last one wasn't the greatest. I got through the gear box good and had the 24 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. He was able to get position on me into one and once he got that clear air. I knew I had one more shot. I knew I was really good into one and that was his week point. 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 and Logano were mainstays at or near the front throughout the race after starting on the front row, with Gordon on the pole and Logano starting second. Logano was the laps leader for the day, leading 86 of them. Gordon led 68.
"Whoever got out in front had such a huge advantage," Gordon said.
Logano took the lead from Gordon at the start of the race, and Gordon settled into second. Varying pit strategies came during a caution on lap 20, with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton up front after staying out, while Brad Keselowski was third on the restart after pitting for fuel only.
Those varying pit strategies then resulted with Logano back up front, with Harvick in second and Gordon also in the top five for a restart following a debris caution on lap 36.
Ryan Newman led laps in the second half of the race by getting himself off sequence from the regular front-runners. He pitted on lap 122, and his team then planned only one more stop through the remaining distance, while everyone else would need two additional stops.
Gordon and Logano, along with most of the race field, pitted around lap 139. Then, when Newman made his final stop on lap 162, Gordon, Logano and company then followed a few laps later with their final stops.
After those stops, the sixth caution of the race came on lap 168 and somewhat pushed the reset button on the race with Gordon and Logano up front with everyone on the same pit sequence.
Kurt Busch was able to get ahead of Gordon on the restart, just in time for another caution. Gordon retook second on the next restart, and the eighth and final yellow flag of the race flew soon afterward on lap 178.
With the exception of one caution at the halfway point of the race, the middle portions of the event ran green, with cautions littering the opening and closing segments of the race. The first four cautions came in the first 50 laps, while the last three came in the final 50 laps of the 200-lap race.
Menard finished fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth. Clint Bowyer was sixth. Denny Hamlin seventh, Brad Keselowski eighth and Jimmie Johnson finished ninth, despite battling with a broken shifter lever early in the race. Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10.
NOTES: Jeff Burton substituted for Tony Stewart, who missed his second consecutive Sprint Cup race. Burton wound up in the garage with an electrical issue. ... J.J. Yeley drove the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota normally driven by Ryan Truex after Truex suffered a concussion in practice on Saturday. Yeley finished 30th. ... Jeff Gordon's pole winning lap of 206.558 mph was a track record and the seventh-fastest pole lap in NASCAR history. ... Joey Logano won the 2013 Pure Michigan 400. ... Jimmie Johnson was the winner the last time the Sprint Cup Series visited Michigan in June. ... Kevin Harvick's second-place finish with his fourth straight runner-up showing at Michigan.