For much of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the battle for the lead was tough one between veteran Jeff Gordon and 24-year-old Joey Logano.
With two of the best cars all weekend long, the two dominated the 200-lap race, leading a combination of 153 laps.
However, Gordon was able to get the advantage of the Team Penske driver on the final restart of the day with just 17 laps to go. After Logano had gotten the advantage on multiple previous restarts, Gordon was finally able to wrestle the lead away into Turn 1.
Logano was then shuffled back to fourth as Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard also got by.
As Gordon scored his third win of the season, Harvick crossed the line second, followed by Logano and Menard.
"It wasn't easy. It's never easy to win at any of these tracks, especially when aerodynamics and track position mean so much," Gordon said in Victory Lane. "I thought we learned a lot the last time we were here on track position. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) just called a perfect race."
While Gustafson called the "perfect race" it was Gordon that got the job done to take the lead on the final restart.
"That last restart was it," he said. "We had the car to win. Our car was amazing. But whoever got out in front had such a huge advantage. I got a good restart and Kevin (Harvick) for some reason, wasn't getting good restarts, so Joey was sort of out there by himself and I was able to get to his quarter.
"When I got to his quarter, I dragged him back and I was able to shoot to the bottom and get by," he said. "But he made a heck of an effort. I thought he was going to get back by me; he almost did. And I just needed a couple of laps for my tires to come in and all of a sudden we were out front and setting sail and the checkered flag was waving.
"This is just unbelievably awesome. I've got to say hi to Ingrid and Ella and Leo back home. They couldn't come today. But we're celebrating your honor here and this is just amazing. This is fantastic."
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Sunday's victory was the third of the year for Gordon, and the 91st of his Sprint Cup Series career.
For Harvick, the team battled to overcome a vibration throughout practice, and once Rondey Childers and the team was able to figure it out, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was a contender for the win.
Capitalizing on the late-race battle between Gordon and Logano, Harvick scored his fourth-consecutive runner-up finish at Michigan.
While Harvick said the team had a "solid day," he admitted they could not keep up the long-run speed of Gordon.
With two wins on the season, Harvick is locked into the Chase and said the team is working hard to be at the top of their game all around heading into the final 10 races of the season.
"We had a solid day. Just the 24 had more speed than we did all day," said Harvick. "I felt like when Joey was out front, he could get away at the short run, we'd kind of even out.
"But all in all, it was a good day," he said. "The main focus for our team has been consistency heading into the Chase to make sure we can scramble and do the things we've done over the last month. When you have a solid day, finish it off. Those are the things we've been able to do. Obviously you want to win, but all in all we had some different goals that are as important leading into the Chase."
Leading a race-high 86 laps, Logano missed out on his third win of the season, in a season in which wins mean more than ever before. So what did Logano take away from Sunday's dominating run?
"That we can win a championship," he said. "I really feel we can do that. That's the message I want to put out there. I want to put out for my team that we're strong enough to do that. I think we showed that today. We got to find a little bit more speed to keep up with one car today. (The) 24 car was the best, only because he was good on the long run, we weren't as good on the long run."
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The Team Penske driver said while he was able to get back to Gordon's bumper, he didn't have enough to hand on, and when Harvick came to his outside with a run he was "swatting flies" inside the cockpit.
"I won every single restart I was on the front row except the last one, and here I am. It's kind of frustrating," said Logano. "I almost had him there. Just kind of rode around in fourth hoping for a restart, because the fourth spot is where you want to be in, realized we weren't getting a restart and tried to go for third."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five, followed by Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.
Sunday's race was full of drama in the closing laps as Logano and Gordon swapped the lead after a series of green flag stops.
Logano hit pit road from the second spot for the final time of the day with 36 laps to go, while Gordon and Harvick followed him in for service one lap later.
When Gordon came off pit road, Logano was able to drive past on the backstretch with 34 laps to go.
With Gordon, Logano and Harvick having pitted just laps earlier, Brad Keselowski took over the race lead. That did not last long, however, as Keselowski blew a right tire and hit the wall hard entering Turn 1 with 33 laps to go.
On the ensuing restart with 27 laps to go, Logano was able to move to the lead as Kurt Busch made a hard charge on the outside line to take the second spot from Gordon after a battle with Harvick and Paul Menard.
Making another strong restart with 23 laps to go, Busch went for the lead under Logano, but lost the rear of the car as he and Logano raced side-by-side off Turn 2. Losing the back end, Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet shot into the outside wall.
With right side damage and flat tires, Busch could not keep the car from hitting the wall again as NASCAR threw the caution with 22 laps to go. Busch's Daniel Knost-led team attempted to make repairs on pit road, but the team was forced to go behind the wall with just 19 laps to go.
Restarting the race with just 17 laps to go, Gordon was able to clear Logano as they drove into Turn 1 on the restart. However, Logano was able to get to Gordon as they raced hard for the lead Harvick and Menard were able to capitalize and shuffle Logano back to fourth with just 15 laps to go.
Once the action settled down, Gordon was able to pull away with the race lead, extending his lead over Harvick to score the win.
After Sunday's race, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger were officially locked into the 16-driver Chase field.
Sunday's race featured 20 lead changes among eight different drivers, and was slowed eight times by caution for a total of 37 laps. Next weekend the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for a Saturday night race under the lights.
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