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Posted: Sunday, June 15th 2014 at 4:48pm

Jimmie Johnson finally wins at Michigan

By Noah Trister, AP Sports Writer
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Jimmie Johnson celebrates with a burnout after winning Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. / Photo: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images
BROOKLYN, MI In the final seconds of his first victory at Michigan International Speedway, Jimmie Johnson could finally relax a bit.

"About 200 yards before the finish line, I knew if the car exploded, I'd still slide across the finish line," Johnson said.

Johnson and his No. 48 Chevrolet made it through the last few laps with a comfortable lead, and the six-time series champion won Sunday for the first time in 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at MIS. Johnson outlasted pole winner Kevin Harvick by 1.214 seconds for his third victory in four races. He also won at Charlotte and Dover.

It was the fifth victory in a row for Chevy and Hendrick Motorsports. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also have won during the streak that doesn't count Jamie McMurray's win for Chevy and Chip Ganassi in the Sprint All-Star race last month.

Brad Keselowski finished third Sunday after two straight runner-up showings at Dover and Pocono. Paul Menard was fourth, followed by Kasey Kahne, Gordon and Earnhardt in the 400-mile, 200-lap race.

Johnson had finished in the top five four times previously at Michigan, including a second-place showing in August 2011. He lost in August 2012 when his engine faltered with six laps remaining.

"It was a long time coming," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "We've raced very well up here, and we haven't been able to close the deal on quite a few occasions."

There are now only four tracks on the current schedule where Johnson has never won Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland and Homestead-Miami. Johnson had led in 15 previous Cup races at MIS.

"It's good to see Jimmie, after leading so many laps here, close the deal," owner Rick Hendrick said. "We've run out of gas, broke motors, blown tires."

Johnson led after 164 laps Sunday before stopping to pit and giving up the lead. He was back in front with about 10 laps to go following a cycle of pit stops by other drivers.

"We really were in a win-win situation," Johnson said. "Those guys still had to come to pit road to make it to the end. Once I got an idea of how the race was unfolding, I knew we were in the catbird seat, and were able to take advantage of it."

Hendrick had four drivers in the top seven.

Johnson is trying for his seventh Cup title, which would tie the mark shared by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt. This was his 69th career victory, and he's the first driver with three wins in 2014.

"Even at 69 wins, I still cherish them all," Johnson said. "It is not easy to win in this sport."

Hendrick's team, however, is making it look easy, having won five straight races for the third time. Hendrick accomplished the feat twice in 2007, including a six-race streak.

Gordon's sixth-place finish was enough to keep him atop the points race, with Hendrick teammates Johnson and Earnhardt in second and third.

Ford had won the last three Cup races at Michigan, with Joey Logano prevailing last August and Greg Biffle winning twice before that. Keselowski couldn't extend that streak, and Logano finished ninth.

"We kind of trudged through it and came away with another top-three effort, which is good but not great," said Keselowski, who was unable to come away with a victory in his home state. "We want the wins, especially here at Michigan. That would mean a lot."

Keselowski, who has a couple Nationwide victories at Michigan, is 0 for 10 in Cup races at the track.

It was a rough day for Roush Fenway Racing, which has a record 13 Cup victories at Michigan. Biffle finished 20th and Carl Edwards was 23rd.

Kyle Busch was forced out of the race because of a problem with his left rear hub. He finished 41st and dropped from sixth to 10th in the standings.

Harvick qualified at over 204 mph Friday, the fastest pole-winning speed since 1987. He led for a race-high 63 laps but had to settle for his third second-place finish this year, to go along with two wins and three poles.

"The car was fast, just wound up on the wrong side of all the strategy," he said.

Menard won the Nationwide race Saturday and managed a fourth-place finish Sunday.

"I actually got to go to victory lane yesterday with my daughter and my dad was here today, so it was a good Father's Day weekend for sure," he said. "We needed some clean air at the end and the guys got me out front with some pit strategy and good pit stops and we came home with a top five."

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Michigan International Speedway - Brooklyn, MI
Quicken Loans 400 - June 15, 2014


(Start position in parentheses)

1. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200 laps, 130.7 rating, 47 points, $205,661.
2. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 200, 135.1, 44, $196,118.
3. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 113.9, 42, $153,393.
4. (5) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 200, 105.8, 40, $136,349.
5. (13) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 200, 85.9, 40, $121,250.
6. (2) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 200, 117.2, 39, $140,526.
7. (3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 200, 106.2, 38, $103,590.
8. (12) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200, 89.7, 37, $121,460.
9. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, 117.3, 36, $129,056.
10. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 200, 92, 34, $128,256.
11. (26) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 200, 94.1, 34, $126,473.
12. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200, 95.6, 33, $129,404.
13. (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200, 96.8, 32, $91,090.
14. (21) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 200, 83.5, 31, $134,901.
15. (24) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 200, 77.6, 29, $98,715.
16. (17) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200, 79.6, 28, $115,523.
17. (27) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 200, 68.1, 27, $96,365.
18. (28) Juan Pablo Montoya, Ford, 200, 72.4, 26, $84,265.
19. (23) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 200, 68.4, 0, $87,665.
20. (18) Greg Biffle, Ford, 200, 68, 24, $129,415.
21. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 199, 53.5, 23, $103,098.
22. (25) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 199, 60.6, 22, $100,773.
23. (22) Carl Edwards, Ford, 199, 57, 21, $101,865.
24. (31) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 199, 56.5, 20, $105,723.
25. (20) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 199, 61.5, 19, $112,685.
26. (32) David Gilliland, Ford, 198, 51.5, 18, $102,937.
27. (30) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 198, 51.7, 17, $120,915.
28. (42) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 198, 42.1, 16, $84,840.
29. (29) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 198, 61.2, 15, $92,640.
30. (19) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 197, 74.9, 15, $130,801.
31. (4) Aric Almirola, Ford, 197, 73.5, 13, $121,201.
32. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 197, 36.6, 12, $82,315.
33. (38) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 197, 42.9, 11, $81,240.
34. (34) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 197, 44, 10, $89,140.
35. (39) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 197, 36.9, 0, $80,975.
36. (35) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, 197, 30, 0, $80,920.
37. (16) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 196, 33.2, 7, $108,768.
38. (33) David Ragan, Ford, 196, 44.3, 6, $84,070.
39. (36) David Stremme, Chevrolet, 195, 29.9, 5, $72,070.
40. (41) Alex Bowman, Toyota, accident, 169, 33.9, 4, $68,070.
41. (14) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 169, 74.6, 3, $111,911.
42. (10) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 110, 25.5, 2, $92,145.
43. (43) Travis Kvapil, Ford, accident, 23, 28.8, 1, $56,570.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 143.441 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 47 minutes, 19 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 1.214 seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes: 25 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K.Harvick 1-18; J.Gordon 19-42; B.Keselowski 43-44; J.Gordon 45-56; K.Harvick 57-74; J.Johnson 75-77; J.Logano 78-91; J.Johnson 92-104; K.Harvick 105-112; B.Keselowski 113; K.Harvick 114-118; B.Keselowski 119; K.Harvick 120-126; J.Logano 127-141; K.Harvick 142-148; J.McMurray 149-151; J.Johnson 152-164; J.McMurray 165; D.Earnhardt Jr. 166; Ku.Busch 167-182; K.Kahne 183; K.Larson 184-185; A.Dillon 186-187; T.Stewart 188; M.Kenseth 189-190; J.Johnson 191-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Harvick, 6 times for 63 laps; J.Johnson, 4 times for 39 laps; J.Gordon, 2 times for 36 laps; J.Logano, 2 times for 29 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 16 laps; B.Keselowski, 3 times for 4 laps; J.McMurray, 2 times for 4 laps; K.Larson, 1 time for 2 laps; M.Kenseth, 1 time for 2 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 2 laps; K.Kahne, 1 time for 1 lap; D.Earnhardt Jr., 1 time for 1 lap; T.Stewart, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: J.Johnson, 3; D.Earnhardt Jr., 2; K.Harvick, 2; J.Logano, 2; Ku.Busch, 1; Ky.Busch, 1; C.Edwards, 1; J.Gordon, 1; D.Hamlin, 1; Bra.Keselowski, 1.

Top 12 in Points: 1. J.Gordon, 537; 2. J.Johnson, 522; 3. D.Earnhardt Jr., 514; 4. M.Kenseth, 513; 5. Bra.Keselowski, 490; 6. C.Edwards, 462; 7. J.Logano, 454; 8. K.Larson, 454; 9. K.Harvick, 447; 10. Ky.Busch, 446; 11. R.Newman, 440; 12. D.Hamlin, 435.
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