There are hardly any downsides to being in first place in an auto race. But at Michigan on Sunday, getting to first place as soon as possible after the final restart was of the utmost importance.
Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano both knew that whoever won the battle that ensued off the race's last restart was going to win the race. Logano got the jump immediately after the green flag waved with X laps to go, but Gordon pulled to the inside and pulled away for the win.
"That last restart was it," Gordon said. "We had the car to win, our car was amazing, but whoever got out front had such a huge advantage so I got a good restart and [third-place Kevin Harvick] for some reason wasn't getting good restarts – Joey was out there by himself and I was able to get to his [quarterpanel], once I got to his quarter I drug him back and I was able to shoot to the bottom and get by."
Before Gordon was able to pull away too much, Logano had one last chance to get him. He wasn't able to complete the pass and his car got loose underneath Gordon's.
"We were battling on these restarts really hard and used basically every trick in the book that I had," Logano said. I knew the 24 was also, he was laying back really hard. So every game that could be played was being played on the restarts. I had a really good one the last one and I had a run and then I was clear I guess and I should have pulled down in front of him and gotten the draft from him. Instead he had enough momentum to get up to my quarterpanel and pull me back and had position on me going into the corner and was able to carry that momentum into the lead."
"Then I gave it one more final shot there and tried to get underneath him off of two there and almost had him and once again pulled me back."
The final 28 laps of the race featured three restarts. Logano had been able to take the lead into turn one on the first two, but not the third. Gordon had a restart similar to his exceptional one at Indianapolis to take the win.
Of course, the dash to get to the front as soon as possible after a restart is not unique in the Cup Series. It was the same situation at Indianapolis where Gordon won in July and at most other tracks over a mile in the series. It's a pattern that meant Logano and Gordon knew exactly what the stakes were when they were battling for the lead.
It's Gordon's first win at Michigan since 2001 and his third win of the season, tying him for the series lead with Brad Keselowski and Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Harvick finished second at Michigan, the fourth straight time he's finished second at the track.
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