Joey Logano fought off a late-race charge from Kevin Harvick to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan.
Logano started his Penske Ford from pole, and when a fractious opening to the race with three cautions in 17 laps settled down, he controlled the race from the front. But his car did not work in traffic, and when he was caught up behind backmarker Johnny Sauter he dropped two spots to Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a flash.
The team kept working on Logano’s car during a race blighted by cautions.
Veteran Mark Martin led from the final restart, but he was praying for a caution that never came in his bid to win his first race since 2009 and predictably his Toyota ran dry with three to go. Logano was in the right place to capitalize, and he led home Harvick for an emotional win.
“I noticed he was lifting early, because I was catching him on entry (into the corners),” Logano said of Martin. “He was able to pull me on exit. I wanted to get by him, because I knew the 29 (Harvick) was fast, too
“It is so cool to be here in Victory Lane. It’s crazy racing Mark Martin, my childhood hero. I was able to race against him in Pocono last year for the win. It is so cool racing against a guy like that.”
To Harvick, the race was decided on the final restart. Harvick lined up inside Martin with Logano’s No. 22 Ford behind the No. 29 Chevy.
“Just mistimed that last restart there,” Harvick said. “I had a great run on the 55 (Martin). Was going to beat him to the line by too much. Wound up having to drag the brakes. From there, it was going to be sketchy if we were going to keep the 22 back there.
“Went for it, backfired a little bit there as we got three-wide and lost some track position. I didn’t think we were going to be racing the 55 there for the win (because Martin was short on fuel). I thought if we could just get out of Turn 2 in second we’d be in good shape. Got a little bit greedy and lost a couple spots there. That’s what ultimately cost us the win.”
It was a race to forget for Jimmie Johnson, whose quest for a first Michigan win continues. After dropping to the back following a switch to the spare brought about by a shunt in practice, he worked his way forward into the top 10, and even led a lap during the first bout of green-flag stops. But it was as he rejoined he noticed something was amiss with his Chevy’s engine, and a handful of laps later his race was over with a blown motor.
It was also a disappointing race for his Hendrick teammate Earnhardt, who led the race in its first half and seemed nailed on for a top-10 finish when he suffered a right-front puncture, which pitched him into the wall.
Kyle Busch had been a solid top 10 runner throughout the race too, but was forced off sequence when he felt the handling of his Toyota go off. A chunk was found to be missing from his right-front tire, but that would be the end of his luck, and just a few laps later he spun backward into the wall, ending any hopes of a good finish.
Kurt Busch had a strong car in the middle of the race, but a four-tire change when most took two cost him track position. He made a great final restart, but lacked the pace to challenge for the win, finishing third.
Paul Menard drove a great race to take fourth, while Clint Bowyer recovered from an opening lap spin (due to a flat tire) to take fifth.
Results - 200 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Joey Logano Penske Ford 2h45m59.000s 2. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +1.019s 3. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +4.370s 4. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +5.525s 5. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +6.499s 6. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +6.912s 7. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +8.562s 8. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +8.771s 9. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +10.660s10. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +12.159s11. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +14.055s12. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +14.718s13. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +14.975s14. Austin Dillon Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +15.474s15. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford +15.615s16. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +16.217s17. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +17.622s18. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +18.405s19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +19.592s20. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +20.601s21. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford +22.617s22. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +27.340s23. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +27.741s24. David Ragan Front Row Ford +28.125s25. Casey Mears Germain Ford +28.961s26. David Stremme Swan Toyota +29.378s27. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota +1 lap28. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +2 laps29. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford +2 laps30. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +3 laps31. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +3 laps32. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +3 laps33. Brendan Gaughan Phoenix Chevrolet +4 laps34. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota +8 laps35. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota +14 laps36. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +29 laps37. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +35 laps*38. David Reutimann BK Toyota +47 laps* Not running at checkered flagRetirements: Josh Wise Front Row Ford 56 laps Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 54 laps Scott Speed Leavine Ford 35 laps Johnny Sauter Parsons Ford 34 laps JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet 12 laps