Joey Logano thrusts himself into Chase contention with win at Michigan

With three races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, you can add another driver to the list of those with championship hopes that are more than a dream.

Joey Logano started first at Michigan on Sunday, and while he ventured from that spot for the majority of the race, he was back in it at the end and got his first Cup Series win of the season.

Over the races final laps, Logano stalked leader Mark Martin, but was never able to get to Martin's bumper. However, that ended up a non-issue. Martin was attempting to stretch his fuel and was between two and three laps short of making it to the end of the race. He needed a caution flag that never flew.

"I knew he was two laps short, but I really wanted to get by him in case they were fooling with me," Logano said. "They were getting great mileage and I knew (Kevin Harvick) behind me, he was about the same speed as me. Just getting that clean air would have been so much."

Martin had to hit the pit lane with three laps to go. Logano was then in the lead, and Harvick was never able to get close enough to challenge for the win.

Logano got in that position by making a three-wide move on Harvick for second place on the race's final restart with 23 laps to go. Once he got the position on Harvick, he worked his way around Kurt Busch and kept Martin within his sights before Martin was forced to pit.

"I just mistimed that last restart there," Harvick said. "I was rolling pretty good on (Martin), and going to beat him to the start/finish line and I had to check up and that allowed the 22 to kind of make it three-wide and get under me and we had to fight back from there."

After back-to-back 40th place finishes at Daytona and New Hampshire, Logano tumbled from 10th to 18th in the standings and was 36 points outside of the top 10.

That 18th position was one spot below where he was at the same time in 2012, when he was with Joe Gibbs Racing. After Matt Kenseth's arrival to take the reins of the No. 20 car that Logano was driving last season, Logano signed with Penske Racing to team with Brad Keselowski.

In the run-up to last year's Chase, Logano stagnated and was 18th and without a sniff of the Wild Card come Richmond. This year at Penske, the stagnation has turned into spring water. In the races since that rough two weeks, he has finishes of eighth, seventh and seventh. And, of course, Sunday's win.

That means he's now back to 13th in the standings, 17 points out of the top 10 and seven points behind Martin Truex Jr. for the final Wild Card spot. What looked to be an afterthought a month ago is now a legitimate possibility.

"We bet on Joey when we hired him and he's certainly been showing the speed and the skill and today, winning at our home track for Ford and the Shell-Pennzoil car, it's an outstanding weekend for Penske Racing," car owner Roger Penske said.

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