Monday, November 24, 2014

Johnson ends drought

BROOKLYN, Mich.—In the final seconds of his first victory at Michigan International Speedway, Jimmie Johnson finally could relax a bit.
“About 200 yards before the finish line, I knew if the car exploded, I’d still slide across the finish line,” he quipped.

Johnson and his No. 48 Chevrolet made it through the last few laps with a comfortable lead, and the six-time series champion won yesterday 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 yesterday 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 the following August when his engine faltered with six laps to go.
“It was a long time coming,” said crew chief Chad Knaus.
“We’ve raced very well up here [but] we haven’t been able to close the deal on quite a few occasions,” he noted.
There now are 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.
“It’s good to see Jimmie, after leading so many laps here, close the deal,” said owner Rick Hendrick.
“We’ve run out of gas, broke motors, blown tires.”
Johnson led after 164 laps yesterday 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.”
Johnson is trying for his seventh Cup title, which would tie the mark shared by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
This also was his 69th career victory—and he’s the first driver with three wins in 2014.
Gordon’s sixth-place finish was enough to keep him atop the points race, with Hendrick teammates Johnson and Earnhardt in second and third, respectively.

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