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.