The way this weekend has been playing out at Michigan International Speedway, whoever goes to Victory Lane will likely have to go through Jeff Gordon.
The four-time Sprint Cup champion put down a blistering-fast lap in qualifying to score the pole and has been among the fastest cars all weekend long.
Fastest in final practice, Gordon said he had some help to put up the fast lap of the session, but was pleased with the overall feel of the car.
"We’re just working on balance, I think the car has plenty of speed," Gordon told FOX Sports. "Traffic is definitely changing the cars a lot, so you want to have clean air and make sure we can take off good on restarts, as well as have decent balance at the end. I think we’re pretty good."
After expressing concerns over tire vibrations during Friday’s opening practice session, Gordon indicated while the issue is still there, it tends to go away throughout the course of a run.
"Some of it is a balance thing," he said. "If you’re freer, it doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue."
While many are looking at Gordon as the driver to beat on Sunday, he pointed out he would have to contend with Kevin Harvick, the Team Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, as well as his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"That’s just looking at (lap) times," he said. "It just hard to say because there’s a bunch of cars that are fast. (Kyle) Larson is good here, and he was fast. You never can predict."
While it may be hard to predict who will win on Sunday, there have been a handful of cars that have been a step better than the rest.
Among those have been the Team Penske cars of Logano and Keselowski. Logano will start Sunday’s race from the front row next to Gordon, while Keselowski will take the green flag from the fifth spot.
Running third in Saturday’s final practice, Keselowski was pleased with their session, but indicated there was still a bit of work to be done if he wants to score his first win at his home track.
"It’s pretty decent," Keselowski said of his car. "We just need a little bit more to run with Jeff, he looks like the car to beat. We’re still clawing. We need just a touch more tomorrow and I think we can give them a run."
As far as the vibrations that have plagued some teams this weekend, Keselowski believes it has to do with the aero configuration and said he is not concerned about it for Sunday’s race.
"It seems to be related to the aero configurations of the car and how aggressive you get on it," he said. "It’s been alright so far. I guess we haven’t been aggressive enough."
Also among the fastest cars this weekend has been Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards. Facing his final race at Michigan with team owner Jack Roush and Ford as a manufacturer, Edwards is eager to put the No. 99 Ford in Victory Lane.
"This race is always special," said Edwards. "You guys know how proud I am to represent Ford. Right now my goal is to go represent Ford and drive as hard as I can for Jack Roush the same way I always have and to get us a championship. That would be I guess extra special to be able to do that right now."
After one of their worst Michigan performances to date in June, Roush Fenway Racing used a test session in July to prepare for Sunday’s race. The extra efforts seems to have paid off, as all three of its drivers — Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — qualified in the top 11 and have been among the fastest all weekend long.
"I believe that at this point it looks like we did the right thing," Edwards said Friday after qualifying. "I feel like we have a very fast car here. It shows us that we are doing the right things. We are working on things and it is paying off. The race is another story but we will enjoy this today. It has been a lot of work for a lot of people. Hopefully we just keep moving forward. We have been making progress and this is a good step."
So, while it might be hard to predict who will take the checkered flag at the end of the day, there are some clear favorites heading into Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.
VIDEO: Jeff Gordon wins his second consecutive pole