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Jimmie Johnson ends his Michigan frustration

Jimmie Johnson’s daughter, Genevieve, takes his cap off in Victory Lane at Michigan.

Associated Press

Jimmie Johnson’s daughter, Genevieve, takes his cap off in Victory Lane at Michigan.

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.

Sprint Cup points

After 15 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jeff Gordon* 537—

Jimmie Johnson*** 522 15

Dale Earnhardt Jr.** 514 23

Matt Kenseth 513 24

Brad Keselowski* 490 47

Carl Edwards* 462 75

Joey Logano** 454 83

Kyle Larson 454 83

Kevin Harvick** 447 90

Kyle Busch* 446 91

Ryan Newman 440 97

Denny Hamlin* 435 102

* — Has a win. ** — Has two wins. *** — Has three wins.

Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today

Up next

Toyota/SaveMart 350, 3 p.m. Sunday, Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway

TV/radio: TNT, 102.5-FM

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 143.441 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 47 minutes, 19 seconds

Margin of victory: 1.214 seconds

Caution flags: Eight for 36 laps

Lead changes: 25 among 13 drivers

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

Jimmie Johnson ends his Michigan frustration 06/15/14 [Last modified: Sunday, June 15, 2014 11:01pm]
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