BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It was Jeff Gordon at his vintage best and the rest trying to catch or stave him off at Michigan International Speedway today.
At 43, the Hendrick Motorsports ace showed he is the man to beat for this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup title after last winning it in 2001.
Gordon's hard-fought but decisive victory in the Pure Michigan 400 in the Irish Hills Sunday was his 91st in Cup and proved he still has what it takes to add to his four Cup titles.
Gordon, who jumps into the points lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. with his MIS win, started from pole after his slashing run in qualifying on Friday and stormed home by 1.412 seconds over Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing/Chevrolet) and Joey Logano (Team Penske/Ford).
Team owner Rick Hendrick said after Gordon's win, his third of the season, he'd never seen him drive more focused, consistently and smart.
Gordon led six times during the race for a total of 68 laps.
He overtook a game Logano late in the race to head the field from Lap 184 to the checkered flag in the 200-lap race.
His average winning speed was 141.788 miles per hour.
"I think what I see now with Jeff today is how smart he is," Hendrick said. "If someone gets in front of him or is trying to block him like they did today, instead of pushing the envelope like maybe he did in his early years, he'll just back off and let them use their stuff up then he'll pass them.
"You don't see him make any mistakes. I think all of his years of experience are paying off for him right now. I've never seen him with just enough aggressiveness."
Gordon was over the moon with his win.
"Extremely exciting," he said. "I'm just proud of the effort. I mean, just an awesome effort all day to stick with it and have good pit strategy, pit stops, to be in that position there at the end to have a shot at it.
"Then off course, as a driver, especially someone that's been getting beat up over the years about restarts, it's pretty nice to have the last two wins come down to restarts. That's just building all of our confidence in what we're doing, making these races a lot of fun to go to."
About now being a "smarter," better driver after two decades in Cup?
"Well, there's got to be some advantages to being 43 out there," laughed Gordon. "I would hope being more patient and using your head a bit more would be one of them.
"You know, I've always felt like to be a top driver in this series you got to balance that out with aggressiveness, being smart, utilizing your equipment, making the most of it.
"Right now I've got great race cars. That's obvious. I've got a great crew chief (Alan Gustafson) that believes in what I'm doing out there, and I believe in what he is doing, and the engineers.
"Certainly things are going well, no doubt about that. I'm as shocked as anyone else."
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