Joey Logano has put himself into the fight for a Wild Card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, winning the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway from the pole position.
The victory, Logano’s first of the season, has moved him to 13th in the standings and more importantly, just seven points behind Martin Truex Jr. in 12th for the second Wild Card transfer spot.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Logano said on ESPN in Victory Lane. “We needed this for our Chase hopes. We’re not out of it yet. We’ve got another great racetrack [Bristol Motor Speedway] after this coming up for us.
Logano inherited the lead with three laps to go after Mark Martin ran out of gas in an ultimately futile attempt to stretch his final fuel load. Both Martin and Brad Keselowski were on the same strategy, but after a caution came out on Lap 172 for Kyle Busch’s second spin of the day, Keselowski went to the pits for a splash while Martin stayed out.
Knowing he needed a yellow to have any chance, Martin raced out the final run to the checkered flag until his No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota went bone dry. With him out of the picture, it was left to Logano and Harvick to settle the matter.
“I knew [Martin] was two laps short, but I really wanted to get by him just in case,” Logano said. “…I had the 29 [Harvick] behind me and he was about the same speed as me. But just getting that clean air meant so much.”
Martin still praised his MWR compatriots for trying to make their strategy work.
“We knew we needed another caution to make it, but we had the speed to pull it off,” said Martin. “That felt like the old days. Kudos to [crew chief] Rodney Childers and everybody that works on that [car].
“They went for it, rolled the dice, and it’s not crazy to expect cautions at the end of one of these NASCAR races.”
Finishing behind Logano and Harvick in third was Kurt Busch, who was able to break into the Top 10 of the standings thanks to that result.
“I was all fired up when we were running 14th [in the race] – Truex was ahead us, Keselowski was ahead of us, [Greg] Biffle was ahead of us, [Kasey] Kahne was ahead of us – you can’t run 14th and gain on guys,” said Busch. “And I had a restart where the seas parted when I went to the high side, so I got a lot of positions on that restart. We just need to keep plugging away.”
Paul Menard secured his first Top-5 finish of 2013 with a fourth place finish ahead of Clint Bowyer, who overcame a first-lap spin to come home fifth.