Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Jimmie Johnson ends his Michigan frustration

BROOKLYN, Mich. — With 68 career Sprint Cup victories heading into Sunday's race, Jimmie Johnson had obviously found many ways to win.

But having earned those wins in 449 starts, he'd also learned many ways to lose, and particularly at Michigan International Speedway where he was 0-for-24.

No longer.

Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus played the pit-strategy game — which has bitten them many times before — to perfection Sunday as Johnson held off Kevin Harvick to win the Quicken Loans 400.

With the win at Michigan, there are only four tracks on the current Cup schedule where the six-time champion has not won: Chicagoland, Homestead, Kentucky and Watkins Glen.

"We have figured out every way to lose this race," said Johnson, who earned his third win of 2014, the most of any driver. "And today we were able to get it done.

"I've been through so much here, I just kind of put my arms up in the air and said, 'Well, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen, there is nothing I can do about it.' "

The 69th victory of Johnson's Sprint Cup career was also his third in the past four races. In a month he has gone from the object of speculation regarding his lack of victories to the top seed in the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

The win was also the fifth consecutive in the series for Hendrick Motorsports.

No one associated with the No. 48 Chevrolet team plans to slow down anytime soon.

"The fact of the matter is I think we've got to be a little bit better," Knaus said. "Last week we were a whisker away from losing that one. This weekend maybe we were one pit call away from not winning this one.

"We've got to continue to improve our product so by the time we get to the Chase we're where we need to be."

It didn't take long for Johnson to be where he needed to be in Sunday's race.

Harvick led the most laps (63), but late in the race he and his team chose to stay out during the seventh caution along with Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.

A debris caution on Lap 149 disrupted that plan, and after pit stops, Harvick restarted back in 10th on Lap 152 just as Johnson was taking the lead.

Every team still had to pit once more for fuel, but with no other cautions, Johnson recycled back into the lead on Lap 191 and was not seriously challenged.

"I mean, the car was fast, just wound up on the wrong side of all the strategy," a visibly frustrated Harvick said. "We finished second, and that's it."

Brad Keselowski finished third, Paul Menard was fourth and Kasey Kahne, who was involved in an on-track incident on Lap 7, rallied to finish fifth.



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