At long last: Johnson notches first career win at Michigan (VIDEO)
Suddenly red-hot Jimmie Johnson played the fuel-mileage game to perfection to capture Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Johnson scored his first career victory at the 2-mile track, and earned his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race victory in the last four weeks, after going winless in the first 11 events of this season.
The win was the 69th in the six-time series champion’s career. It was also the fifth consecutive race victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
"We’ve figured out every way to lose this race and today, we were able to get it done," said Johnson, who was able to finally seal the deal on Father’s Day.
"As a father, what an awesome day," Johnson added. "It tickles me deeply. So proud to be here and I want to say Happy Father’s Day to everyone out there. … Great power under the hood, fantastic race car."
We’ve figured out every way to lose this race and today, we were able to get it done.
Kevin Harvick finished second in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, followed by Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Team Penske Ford, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Six of the top eight finishers were powered by Hendrick engines.
"We just needed a little more out of our Miller Lite Ford Fusion to run with them big motor cars," Keselowski said. "We were way behind them, but we just have to keep digging."
Harvick started from a pole after qualifying at 204.557 miles per hour, the fastest NASCAR qualifying lap ever at a non-restrictor-plate track.
Harvick led the first 18 laps, until giving way to a charging Jeff Gordon.
At the one-quarter distance Gordon led Harvick by 1.96 seconds, followed by Johnson, Joey Logano, Menard and Earnhardt. Harvick went back out front on Lap 57, after Gordon got balked by a lapped car.
Johnson took his first lead by virtue of a two-tire pit stop under caution on Lap 75, only to be passed on the restart by Joey Logano. Johnson retook the point on Lap 92, and at halfway, the order was Johnson, Logano, Gordon and Earnhardt.
A caution for a single-car spin by David Ragan sent the field down pit road again on Lap 105, and Harvick was first off pit road this time.
Then things turned strange. Between Lap 105 and Lap 123, there were four cautions for spins or crashes, the last coming when Denny Hamlin went around and took out Aric Almirola with him.
Under caution, leader Harvick stayed out, as did six others, though most of the lead-lap cars pitted. Logano took the lead on the restart, with Harvick close behind. They switched spots on Lap 142, Logano dropping to second after picking up some trash on his grille.
Another yellow, this one for debris, sent the field down pit road on Lap 149. This time, five drivers stayed out, with Jamie McMurray taking the lead ahead of Johnson, Earnhardt, Paul Menard and Gordon.
On the restart on Lap 153, McMurray stumbled and Johnson jumped to the front.
Johnson, Menard and Gordon all pitted on Lap 166, followed by McMurray one lap later and then Earnhardt on Lap 168.
That put Kurt Busch out front ahead of Keselowski and Clint Bowyer, although they all still had to make an additional stop.
On Lap 183, Kahne passed Busch for his first lead of the day, but Kahne had to pit 2 laps later for fuel only. At this point, Busch came in, too.
One by one, the leaders came in for fuel and that handed the lead back to Johnson, who easily held off Harvick to win.