Michigan Win Puts Logano in Chase Hunt

Joey Logano

The victory enhances Logano’s chances of making the Chase with three races until the Chase field is set at Richmond. (Photo: Getty Images)


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BROOKLYN, Mich. - Mark Martin wanted a win. Joey Logano needed one.

Logano triumphed.

Logano inherited the lead from Martin when Martin ran out of fuel with four laps left in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

The victory enhances Logano’s chances of making the Chase with three races until the Chase field is set at Richmond. He is third in the battle for the two Wild Card spots but is only seven points behind Martin Truex Jr. for the final Wild Card.

“We were trying to figure out how aggressive we needed to be and I am sure it is a conversation we will have this week,’’ Logano said after his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. “As long as we are consistent and keep knocking off top 10’s like this team has been doing ... it is definitely a great help for our Chase hopes.’’

As Logano screamed on his radio after taking the checkered flag, Martin and crew chief Rodney Childers commiserated about needing one more caution to make a fuel gamble.

Martin last pitted during the caution on Lap 150 and was six laps short of making it to the finish. Kyle Busch, indirectly, tried to help, spinning twice to create two cautions but it wasn’t enough for Martin.

Busch’s second spin set up the final restart with 23 laps to go. That gave Logano the chance to move into position to later take advantage of Martin’s misfortune.

Logano restarted third and made a bold move to pass Kevin Harvick for second place. Logano said he got an assist from Martin, who spun his wheels on the restart. Harvick slowed since he couldn’t beat the leader to the start/finish line. That allowed Logano to jump on to Harvick’s back bumper and pull down underneath him as they crossed the line.

“I timed it just perfectly,’’ Logano said. “I could pull out of line and really almost surprise (Harvick), get down that quick that he couldn’t block me.’’

Logano moved ahead of Harvick but then had to fight Kurt Busch, running on the outside for second place.

“Just had to be aggressive,’’ Logano said. “That’s what you’ve got to do to win these things. Everyone was to win them really bad. You’ve just got to show them that you want it more than them.’’

Harvick had the same thought as Logano, figuring Martin couldn’t make to the end.

“I thought if we could just get out of turn two in second we'd be in good shape,’’ Harvick said. “Got a little bit greedy and lost a couple spots there. That's what ultimately cost us the win.

While Logano ran second, Martin tried to save fuel.

“There was no way to save fuel and lead,’’ Martin said.

Harvick went on to finish second with Kurt Busch placing third. Busch’s finish moved him into the top 10 in points and put the single-car Furniture Row Racing team into the Chase for the first time.

“It's an amazing feeling to be in position right now,’’ Busch said.

Paul Menard scored a season-best fourth-place finish and Clint Bowyer rallied from an opening-lap spin to finish fifth.

Others did not have as good a day.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson finished a season-worst 40th after his engine failed.

Johnson went to pit road on Lap 54. The team checked under the hood but could find nothing obvious. He went back out for a lap but knew he was in trouble.

“It’s really not running,’’ Johnson radioed his team.

He headed to the garage. After a quick inspection, crew chief Chad Knaus told the team they were done for the day.

“The engine broke,’’ Johnson said. “I guess when we came down for the green-flag pit stop something started then. On my way into the pits it locked up and that’s the end of it.’’

That ended a bad weekend for Johnson. He wrecked his primary car in Saturday’s final practice and had to go to a backup car. That forced him to start at the back of the 43-car field. He had qualified third.

Johnson’s lead on Bowyer fell from 75 points to 41 points.

Johnson’s teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had a rough end to his day. Running seventh, he had a right front tire lose air and smacked the wall. He finished 36th and expressed his frustrations with Goodyear’s tire after the race.

Kyle Busch’s two spins left him with a 31st-place finish. Austin Dillon, driving in place of the injured Tony Stewart, crashed when he slid into JJ Yeley, bringing out the caution on the 14th lap. Dillon recovered to finish 14th.

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