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 at MIS in Brooklyn, Michigan. 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 Sunday 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 in August 2012 when his engine faltered with six laps remaining.
“It was a long time coming,” crew chief Chad Knaus said. “We’ve raced very well up here, and we haven’t been able to close the deal on quite a few occasions.”
Johnson is trying for his seventh Cup title, which would tie the mark shared by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt. This 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.
Defending Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon raced to his first victory of the season, beating points leader Doug Kalitta in the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee.
Langdon edged Kalitta in the final with a 3.819-second run at 320.51 mph.
Tommy Johnson Jr. won the Funny Car final for his first victory since 2007, and points leader Erica Enders-Stevens raced to her third Pro Stock win of the year.