|Jimmie Johnson finally wins at Michigan|
|Sunday, June 15, 2014 8:00 PM|
BROOKLYN, Mich. — 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 6-time series champion won Sunday 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 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.”
There are now 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,” owner Rick Hendrick said. “We’ve run out of gas, broke motors, blown tires.”
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.
Hendrick had four drivers in the top seven.
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.
“Even at 69 wins, I still cherish them all,” Johnson added. “It is not easy to win in this sport.”
Hendrick’s team, however, is making it look easy, having won five straight races for the third time. Hendrick accomplished the feat twice in 2007, including a 6-race streak.
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 last three Cup races at Michigan, with Joey Logano prevailing last August and Greg Biffle winning twice before that. Keselowski couldn’t extend that streak and Logano finished ninth.
Keselowski, who has a couple Nationwide victories at Michigan, is 0-for-10 in Cup races at the track.
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.
Kyle Busch was forced out of the race because of a problem with his left rear hub. He finished 41st and dropped from sixth to 10th in the standings.
Harvick qualified at over 204 mph Friday, the fastest pole-winning speed since 1987. He led for a race-high 63 laps but had to settle for his third second-place finish this year, to go along with two wins and three poles.
Menard won the Nationwide race Saturday and managed a fourth-place finish Sunday.
Audi wins 13th title at Le Mans
LE MANS, France — Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer overcame turbocharger problems to drive Audi to its 13th title at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday.
It was the trio’s third victory in the world’s most famous endurance race. Their Audi No. 2 finished three laps ahead of Audi No. 1 driven by Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gene and defending champion Tom Kristensen.
Audi has now won 10 of the last 11 races at Le Mans, including the last five.
Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre took third place at the wheel of Toyota No. 8, five laps off the pace. Pole-sitter Kazuki Nakajima’s Toyota No. 7 retired in the 15th hour while leading because of an electrical problem.
Audi did not impress in qualifying with slower times than Toyota and Porsche but it proved more reliable in a race defined by the teams’ ability to solve mechanical problems.
Lotterer’s Audi No. 2 took the lead in the 22nd hour when Timo Bernhard’s Porsche No. 20 got stuck in the pits until the end of the race because of a drivetrain problem.
In the penultimate hour, Neel Jani’s Porsche No. 14 went back to the garage while in fifth place to fix a gearbox issue. It managed to get back on the track in the final minutes but the return proved meaningless as both Porsche No. 14 and No. 20 were not classified.
Porsche and Audi swapped the lead in the second half of the race.
Treluyer’s Audi No. 2 took the lead from Nakajima in the 15th hour. Gene’s Audi No. 1 then hit the front in the 17th hour when the Audi No. 2 headed back to the garage to change a turbocharger.
Kristensen’s Audi No. 1 was also hit by a turbocharger problem in the 21st hour and surrendered the top spot to Bernhard’s Porsche No. 20 in the 21st hour.
Chasing its first win at Le Mans, Toyota was in contention in the first half of the race, swapping the lead with Porsche from the third to the fifth hour until an unscheduled pit stop by Brendon Hartley’s Porsche No. 20 allowed Stephane Sarrazin’s Toyota No. 7 to pull away.
In the second hour, a sudden downpour caused the crash of two contenders. Nicolas Lapierre’s Toyota No. 8 and Marco Bonanomi’s Audi No. 3 were fighting for third place when the Toyota lost traction on a slippery track and bounced off a barrier before clipping the Audi, which was also hit by Sam Bird’s Ferrari No. 81.
The accident brought the safety car out for about 40 minutes. Lapierre was able to drive his car back to the garage to have it repaired while Bonanomi was forced to retire. The Toyota No. 8 dealt with balance issues for the rest of the race.
On Sunday, Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell and Oliver Turvey finished fifth overall in Zytek-Nissan No. 38 but topped the LMP2 class.
Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella won the GTE Pro category in Ferrari No. 51, while Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicki Thiim finished first in the GTE Am class at the wheel of Aston Martin No. 95. American actor Patrick Dempsey’s Porsche No. 77 placed fifth in the GTE Am category.
A total of 54 cars started in the 82nd edition of Le Mans. Only 36 cars finished the race, while 15 retired and three were not classified.