Joey Logano held off a late charge from Alex Bowman to claim the opening stage of the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Logano’s only real challenge for the top spot came at the start from second place starter Denny Hamlin. Hamlin roared into the lead on the opening lap after starting fifth and led race’s opening five laps.

Logano roared past on Lap 6 with a push from the Wood Brothers Racing entry of Paul Menard. Hamlin then dropped to third as Kevin Harvick took second place as Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola completed the top five.

The field settled into a single file rhythm as Logano inched ahead of Harvick while Almirola moved into third forward of Menard in fourth. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones meanwhile worked his way through traffic to take fifth place.

The leaderboard remained unchanged as they reached the 20 lap mark when NASCAR officials threw a competition caution due to yesterday’s persistent rainfall.

A two tyre pitstop allowed Logano to retain the lead ahead of Hamlin, who elected for a gas-and-go stop ahead of Almirola, Jones and Keselowski. Harvick dropped to eighth after a lengthy pitstop, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was penalized for a safety violation after exiting the pit lane in tenth.

Jimmie Johnson came together with Matt DiBenedetto further back, Johnson to stop three additional times to repair his right front fender.

Logano jumped Hamlin on the restart as positions started to shuffle behind him as Jones muscled past Almirola for second bringing Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch with him.

The tussle for positions eventually settled down after a few laps with Almirola easing into second with Jones and Alex Bowman trailing him.

The bad luck continued for Almirola’s Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick as a loose wheel forced him to pit while running in the Top 10 Lap 53.

Almirola tried to pounce on Logano in Turn 1 of Lap 55 as the leaders caught the lapped cars of Garrett Smithley and Josh Bilicki. The traffic prevented him from completing the pass and allowed Bowman to take second place.

Logano and Bowman cleared the pack by running nose to tail, but Bowman never got close enough and crossed the line second.

Jones ended up third ahead of Almirola and Kurt Busch. Martin Truex, Jr took seventh ahead of a pair of Chevrolets piloted by three-time Michigan winner Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. A couple of Fords driven by Paul Menard and Brad Keselowski were the last to collect stage points.

 

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