Mark Martin and his No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing team gambled on fuel mileage Sunday, attempting to go the final 50 laps of the 200-lap Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., on a single tank of fuel. The gamble didn’t pay off for Martin, but it did for Joey Logano. When Martin ran out of fuel in the final four laps of the race, Logano drove by to take the lead and the race win.
“I noticed he (Martin) was lifting early, because I was catching him on entry,” Logano said. “He was able to pull me on exit. I wanted to get by him, because I knew the 29 (Kevin Harvick) was fast, too, and trying to get the clean air on the Ford. It is so cool to be here in victory lane. It is crazy racing Mark Martin, my childhood hero.”
Martin and the No. 55 team were counting on a caution coming out after they opted to stay out during a caution with 44 laps to go. Despite the yellow flag waving eight times throughout the reace, including three times in the first 15 laps, the race went green for the remainder of the distance.
“We knew we needed another caution to make it, but we had the speed to do it (win),” Martin said. “It’s not crazy to expect cautions at the end of these NASCAR races.”
The win was Logano’s first at the Sprint Cup level since joining Penske Racing at the end of the 2012 season.
Kevin Harvick finished second and Kurt Busch was third. Busch said after the race that he was happy with third, because his small, single-car Furniture Row Racing team was improving.
“At the end of the day, we have our weaknesses, and pit stops and restarts are one of them,” Busch said.
Logano started the race from the pole after turning in a qualifying lap on Friday that set a new track qualifying record and was at the ninth-fastest average qualifying lap speed in NASCAR history. Both Logano and Busch led laps early, as did Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt, whose last two wins came at Michigan, fell out of contention with a tire problem that sent him into the wall and to the garage for a time just past lap 150. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate and series points leader Jimmie Johnson had troubles of his own earlier in the race in the form of a blown engine just past lap 40. Prior to the engine issue, Johnson had drove into the the top-15 after starting in the back because of going to a backup car after a wreck in practice on Saturday.
“We had plenty of speed in the car, and I think we were going to be a factor in the Kobalt Tools Chevrolet,” Johnson said.
Although posting a blistering speed on Friday in qualifying, Logano spent a significant amount of Sunday’s race out of the lead, after leading laps early. He moved back to the front when he got off pit road first during the caution for Earnhardt’s tire. After the yellow flag waved again a few laps later, Harvick was alongside Logano on the front row, restarting second. The two ran first and second until heading down pit road during the final caution of the race with 44 laps remaining.
Logano and Harvick got off pit road first and second during the final yellow flag, but Martin stayed out to restart first. When the race went back to green, Martin was able to remain up front, but both Logano and Harvick lost positions to Busch, who moved into second. Soon after, Logano retook second from Busch, and with 19 laps remaining, Harvick got by Busch for third.
Logano and Harvick maintained second and third until Martin’s tank went dry, moving them up to first and second at the finish.
Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR