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 in Brooklyn, Mich., 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.
Brad Keselowski finished third Sunday after two straight runner-up showings at Dover and Pocono. Paul Menard was fourth, followed by Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the 400-mile, 200-lap race.
Johnson had finished in the top five four times at Michigan.
"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 had led in 15 previous Cup races at MIS.
There are now only four tracks on the current NASCAR circuit where he has never won: Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland and Homestead-Miami.
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.
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 past three Cup races at Michigan, with Joey Logano prevailing last August and Greg Biffle winning twice before that. Michigan native Keselowski couldn't extend that streak, and Logano finished ninth.
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.