By Scott Held NASCAR Wire Service
August 22, 2014
BROOKLYN, Mich. — So much for restarts being a problem for Jeff Gordon.
The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion broke away after a late caution to win Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Gordon, who faced questions about his struggles on restarts earlier this season, passed Joey Logano at the start of lap 183 and kept his Chevrolet in front when Logano got next to him on the following lap. Logano fell back after falling out of a draft and Gordon never was challenged again as he rolled to his third series victory of the season.
His win at Indianapolis last month followed a similar script.
“I thought he had a good start, but I had one, too,” Gordon said. “It’s pretty nice to have the last two wins come down to restarts. Those restarts are so crucial but also intense because of the speed we’re carrying here.”
The pole winner went to victory lane at MIS for the third time — his first since June 2001 — and collected the 91st win of his career. He also gave Hendrick Motorsports, which saw Jimmie Johnson win here in June, a sweep of this year’s races at the track closest to General Motors Corp.’s world headquarters.
Kurt Busch hit the Turn 2 wall shortly after a lap 178 restart and the ensuing yellow flag bunched the field for a final sprint to the finish.
“I wish the last caution didn’t come out,” said Logano, who started second and led a race-best 86 laps. “I thought we had a better shot at it. I won every single restart I was on the front row except the last one.”
Kevin Harvick was second for the fourth straight race here, followed by Paul Menard, Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt, who started the day with a four-point series lead on Gordon, dropped to second after the checkered flag.
“We had a solid day but the 24 (Gordon) just had a little more speed than us,” Harvick said.
Gordon had a little more speed all weekend. He set a new track record with a 206.558 mph qualifying lap and was the only car faster than 200 mph in Saturday’s final practice session. He led 68 laps and seemed to keep the car wherever he wanted on the track throughout the race.
Owner Rick Hendrick said Gordon’s performance reminded him of the driver as a young man, but added he felt his experience and patience have served him well all season.
“There’s got to be some advantages to being 43 out there,” said Gordon, who’s seeking his first series title since 2001. “I’d like to think patience and using your head is one of them.”
The victory was Hendrick Motorsports’ ninth of the season and the team left the track with three of the top four spots in the standings. Kasey Kahne is nine points out of the final spot in the Chase with three races remaining.
The longest of the race’s eight caution periods came midway through the afternoon when rookie Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet struck the turn 4 wall and caught fire. Crews needed 11 laps to clean up the debris.
The slowdown helped Johnson, who started 30th and broke the shifter in his Chevy early in the race. The long caution period allowed his crew to replace it and he ended the day sixth.
A lap 26 crash that began with Danica Patrick’s spin in turn 1 collected eight other cars, including Matt Kenseth, who started the day third in the Sprint Cup standings but still needing a victory to guarantee a spot in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup Series format.