Jimmie Johnson pretty much made everyone forget about that perceived early-season slump he seemed to be in with his third win of the season on Sunday in the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. It was Johnson’s third win in the last four races, but his first-car win at MIS.
“They’ve been so good here at Michigan and couldn’t close the deal,” Johnson’s car owner Rick Hendrick said.
It was the fifth-consecutive win for Hendrick Motorsports, with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the two races in the last five not won by Johnson.
“We’ve always talked about winning here and been so close,” Johnson said.
Kevin Harvick finished second, Brad Keselowski was third, Paul Menard fourth, and Kasey Kahne was fifth.
“We really needed that,” Kahne said. “We had a lot of adjustments; it took us about an hour-and-a-half to get the car right. It was a battle.”
All four Hendrick drivers finished in the top-10. Aside from Johnson and Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth and seventh.
Johnson got the lead after staying out during the eighth and final caution of the race that came out for debris on lap 147. After staying out, he restarted second to Jamie McMurray. He then took the lead from McMurray right after the race went back to green.
Previous race leaders, Harvick and Joey Logano pitted under caution, along with several others, and restarted behind those who stayed out. After staying out, Johnson was among those who had to hit pit road first during a late-race green-flag cycle.
“Strategy always comes into play (at Michigan),” Keselowski, who pitted under caution, said.
After pitting on lap 165, Johnson was outside the top-five, but as the drivers who pitted under the last caution hit pit road in the final 20 laps, Johnson gradually got closer and closer to the front. He was back in the lead with nine laps to go.
“As those laps wound down at the end, I was wondering what would happen,” Johnson said. “Fortunately, nothing happened.
Harvick and Gordon controlled the lead early in the race, with Harvick leading the opening laps before Gordon took the lead by lap 25. Harvick rettok the lead from Gordon around lap 60 and pulled away.
Johnson took his first lead of the race after taking two tires during the third caution of the race that came out on lap 72, but the lead was short-lived and Logano took the lead on the restart. But just before the halfway point of the race, Johnson was back up front.
Harvick retook the lead by getting off pit road first during a lap-103 caution and held the top spot until Logano took the position just before the yellow flag waved on lap 147. He lost more positions on pit road, coming off pit road sixth, and then even more spots to those who stayed out during the caution.
Kyle Larson finished eighth, Logano was ninth and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10.