Johnson makes it 3 of 4 with win in Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) - After a slow start to the Sprint Cup season - by his standards - Jimmie Johnson appears poised for a run at yet another championship.

His latest victory came at one of the few tracks where the six-time champion had never won before.

“We said coming into it that we thought it was going to be May time before we were able to hit our stride,” crew chief Chad Knaus said. “I think that May showed up and we started to run a little bit better, and I hope that we can continue to improve.”

Johnson won at Michigan International Speedway for the first time in 25 Cup starts Sunday. He made it through the final few laps in his No. 48 Chevrolet with a comfortable lead and crossed the finish 1.214 seconds ahead of pole winner Kevin Harvick.

Johnson was winless on the year before finally breaking through with victories at Charlotte and Dover. Michigan was his third victory in four races.

“The expectation is for us to go out there and perform on a weekly basis as the best team out there, and that’s my expectation, and it’s the expectation of all the fans and especially all you media guys,” Knaus said. “If we falter for two weeks, we’re washed up and we’re all getting fired and everything is going crazy. So if we don’t do that, that’s the only way to keep you guys quiet.”

Johnson moved up to second place in the points standings behind Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is third, giving Hendrick Motorsports the top three spots.

There are now only four tracks on the current schedule where Johnson has never won - Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland and Homestead-Miami.

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.

“When I heard 10 to go, and I’ve been there before with the lead. I heard five to go, I’ve been there before, didn’t win,” Johnson said. “Taken the white with the lead and didn’t make it back. So I was really - I wasn’t taking anything for granted on that final trip around.”

Here are five more things of note from NASCAR’s stop at Michigan:

HENDRICK ROLLS ON: It was the fifth straight victory for Hendrick Motorsports in a points-paying Cup race - three by Johnson plus one each for Gordon and Earnhardt. Hendrick had four of the top seven finishers Sunday, with Kasey Kahne, Gordon and Earnhardt finishing fifth, sixth and seventh.

It’s the third time Hendrick has won five straight races. The team accomplished the feat twice in 2007, including a six-race streak.

Chevrolet snapped Ford’s three-race run at Michigan after Joey Logano took last August’s race and Greg Biffle won the two before that.

“We need to switch that stat where that other brand wins too much here,” Johnson said.

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