If there was ever a doubt that one driver is in the midst of his best season in many years, it was answered on Sunday. There was no question entering Michigan, the fastest guy on the track was Jeff Gordon, and the team with momentum was the No. 24 group.
Sure, Watkins Glen was a slight setback, but unlike past years, it was not a moment where the team began to panic, and wonder what it would do to them. Instead, they took it in stride, and looked to the next week.
What did Gordon do on that following weekend was go out, and win the pole with a new record time and speed. Then, when the race was on the line, the driver made it work. The Achilles heal of Gordon has been restarts, but at Indianapolis he was the one to beat when it was on the line, and he needed to go. This time, at Michigan, he powered to the lead, then held on when his toughest contenders were in hot pursuit.
But, when that lead was secure, no one was challenging. It has been good to be "Big Daddy" this year, as this checkered flag gave him the points lead, a third win on the season, and puts him atop the Chase seeding with three races left before the title hunt begins.
That win also gave one writer yet another win on the season, ironically tying him with two others with five wins on the year, but also propelling him to the top seed in the Chase. Momentum is big, but wins are even bigger.
Here's where everyone now stands after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400:
Rob Tiongson (810) Jeff Gordon WON - 5
Ryan O'Hara (794) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd - 5
Kara Martin (793) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th - 3
Patti Rodisch (783) Brad Keselowski finished 8th - 3
Sal Sigala Jr. (758) Brad Keselowski finished 8th - 5
Dustin Parks (758) Joey Logano finished 3rd - 2
Billy Fellin (745) Joey Logano finished 3rd - 1
Rob Blount (727) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th - 3
Aaron Rosser (706) Brad Keselowski finished 8th - 2
Michael Hirshbein (677) Kyle Busch finished 39th - 1
James Broomhead (653) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th - 2
Misan Akuya (631) Kyle Larson finished 43rd - 1
Next Race: Little rest for the weary as for NASCAR, it is a short week. The NFL does short weeks every week of the regular season, as two teams have to finish on Sunday, then prepare for Thursday. In this sport, they at least have two more days to get ready to head to the track. But, when they do, they go put on a show at one of the most anticipated races of the season.
When it's late August, and the Chase is looming, the thunder begins to roll. When one speaks of thunder, one thinks of Thunder Valley. The "Last Great Coliseum" awaits, as up next is the half-mile, wicked fast track that is Bristol.
Writers, there will be some beating and banging, and maybe a few tempers. But, your picks are due by Thursday, August 21, at 10 p.m. ET for the Irwin Tools Night Race.