Johnson wins at Michigan for the first time
International Speedway off of his list of racetracks where he has yet to win a
race on the current Sprint Cup Series schedule.Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion, grabbed the lead for the
fourth and final time after a round of green-flag pit stops had concluded with
10 laps remaining in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400. The driver of the No. 48
Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet made his final stop with 35 laps to go. He beat
Kevin Harvick, the pole sitter, to the finish line by 1.2 seconds.
“Just an awesome performance,” said Johnson, who led a total of 39 laps, en
route to his 69th career win in NASCAR’s premier series. “As those laps were
winding down at the end, I was just wondering what was going to happen, and
fortunately nothing did.”
Johnson’s first win at Michigan, a 2-mile oval, came in his 25th start here.
He has come close to victory at this track several times in the past,
including in August 2012 when he was leading in the closing laps but suffered
engine failure. Greg Biffle benefited from Johnson’s mishap, as Biffle grabbed
the top spot from him and went on to win the race.
In August 2011, Johnson finished second to Kyle Busch after Busch had passed
him for the lead late in the event.
“We have figured out every way to lose this race, but today, we were able to
get it done,” Johnson said.
Those tracks where Johnson has yet to win in his Sprint Cup career include:
Chicagoland, Homestead, Kentucky and Watkins Glen. Kentucky was added to the
schedule in 2011. The series will run there for the fourth time on June 28.
Johnson became the first driver to win three races this season. He scored
back-to-back victories at Charlotte and Dover before finishing sixth in last
weekend’s event at Pocono.
“We are getting stronger as the No. 48; there is no doubt about that,” he
said. “We’re winning a lot of races and running up front. We just have to do
the best that we can to get stronger as the Chase gets closer and make sure we
are on our game when the Chase gets here.”
Johnson also gave Hendrick Motorsports its fifth consecutive victory in a
points-paying race this season. Jeff Gordon won the May 10 event at Kansas,
and Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed his second victory this season at Pocono.
It’s the third time Hendrick has won five or more races in a row. The racing
organization accomplished the feat twice in 2007, including a streak of six
“To keep the streak going, get five, that’s great,” team owner Rick Hendrick
said. “This was a good race, and it just played out the way we needed it to
play out. All of our cars ran well.”
All four of Hendrick’s drivers finished in the top-10. Kasey Kahne, Gordon and
Earnhardt placed fifth through seventh, respectively.
Harvick led the most laps with 63.
“The car was fast, just wound up on the wrong side of all the [pit] strategy,”
Harvick said. “We finished second, and that’s it.”
Brad Keselowski, a Michigan native, finished third at his home track after
placing second at both Dover and Pocono.
“We just didn’t have the speed really all weekend to be a front runner in the
sense of contending to win based on speed,” Keselowski said. “We want the
wins, especially here at Michigan. That would mean a lot. Just need a little
bit more speed to be able to get there.”
Paul Menard, who won Saturday’s 250-mile Nationwide Series race at Michigan,
took the fourth spot.
Rookie Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, who won here last August, and Clint Bowyer
completed the top-10.
Gordon remained the points leader, while Johnson moved up to second in the
standings. Johnson is now 15 points behind his teammate.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished 18th in his first start of the season in Sprint
Cup. Montoya, who is a full-time competitor in the IndyCar Series this year,
drove a third entry for Team Penske. His next Sprint Cup start is scheduled
for the last weekend in July in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.