BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Jeff Gordon’s third Sprint Cup win of the season came down to one crucial restart.
Gordon got the better of Joey Logano and led Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway with 16 laps remaining. After that, he had little trouble maintaining a comfortable margin over Kevin Harvick, who ended up finishing second.
“Joey, as we rolled up to some of the restarts – not that last one, but some of the other ones – as guys were starting to sort of anticipate it, he was slowing down, and when he slowed down, everybody got bottled up, and then he’d take off,” Gordon said. “That last one, I thought he had a good start, but I had a good one, too.”
The 43-year-old Gordon won his first Cup race at MIS since 2001, the same year he won his most recent championship on NASCAR’s top series. He’s now looking like a threat to win another. Sunday’s win gave him the series points lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“There’s got to be some advantages to being 43 out there,” Gordon said. “I would hope being more patient and using your head a little bit more would be one of them. I think I’ve always felt like to be a top driver in this series you’ve got to balance that out with aggressiveness, being smart, utilizing your equipment, making the most of it.”
Harvick was second, followed by Logano, Paul Menard and Earnhardt.
Gordon completed a sweep at MIS for Hendrick. Jimmie Johnson won the June race on the two-mile oval.
“I think all of our teams are running well, but this is a big, big win,” owner Rick Hendrick said. “It’s great to see Jeff so happy. He’s like a little kid again, so I think it’s going to be really, really important for the momentum he’s carrying right now into the Chase.”
Logano was second to Gordon in qualifying. He led 86 laps and Gordon was in front for 68.
“We can win a championship. I really feel we can do that. That’s the message I want to put out there,” Logano said. “We’ve got to find a little bit more speed.”
Here are five more things to know from Sunday’s race:
REPLACEMENT: Jeff Burton finished 37th after replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 14 car. Stewart skipped his second straight Cup race after he struck and killed a driver at a dirt-track race in New York the previous weekend.
Harvick, who competes for Stewart-Haas Racing, spoke out Sunday.
“I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody that’s on a racetrack,” Harvick said. “I don’t think there’s anybody in this garage that would. It would be hard to find somebody in the racing world that could point that car, just run somebody over. You have just a lot of unknowledgeable people reporting on a situation that know absolutely nothing about racing.”
CHASING SPOTS: Assuming they attempt to qualify for the final three races of the regular season, the 12 drivers with victories this season have all wrapped up spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
If the regular season ended now, the last four drivers in the Chase would be Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle.
Bowyer and Biffle both moved ahead of rookie Kyle Larson, whose car caught fire against the wall just before the halfway point Sunday.
LOOKING BETTER: When Jimmie Johnson had a problem with a gear shifter, it looked like another tough break for the six-time champion. But he was able to recover and finish ninth – his first top-10 showing in six races.
“We still had these obstacles,” Johnson said. “That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out within the next few weeks. The clock is ticking and we’re running out of time on that front. But we have fast race cars and they keep saying we show it during the race, but the results haven’t been there.”
NOT YET: Brad Keselowski, who is from Michigan, is now 0 for 11 in Cup races at MIS. Keselowski rubbed against the wall with about 32 laps remaining and finished eighth.
ROUSH STRUGGLES: In June at Michigan, Roush Fenway Racing failed to put a driver in the top 10, the first time that had happened at MIS since 2000. This time Biffle finished 10th, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (15th), Carl Edwards (23rd) and Trevor Bayne (41st) were further down the list.