Johnson, Knaus hit right strategy

At Michigan, he has run out of fuel four times, including twice while leading on the last lap. He's also suffered three engine failures over the years.

"

KnausWe had one restart where we fell back to about seventh, so we had to exploit the pit strategy rather than just rely on a fast race car. The fast car actually showed up, and we were able to make the whole thing happen. A lot of years here we've been close to winning here but we haven't been able to pull it off, so I'm really happy for Jimmie.

" -- Crew chief Chad Knaus

But Sunday, nothing went wrong and JJ duly checked Michigan off his to-do list.

"It really is a big deal, but it wasn't until I really got close, down to the last few tracks, that I started thinking about it," he said. "I think Gordon has just one left, so I'm envious of that position. It would be so cool to get down to one track, so maybe we can get there."

To listen to Knaus, you'd think that Johnson just scored his first Cup race win, not his 69th. Despite being the most successful NASCAR team of the past decade, Knaus believes the best is yet to come from Johnson and his group.

"I still think we have a long way to go," he said. "We haven't been as fast as we want to be on a consistent basis, and we still have to qualify better. We're operating well, but we're just missing a little bit. We're not exactly where we want to be.

"There have been a lot of circumstances along the way that have helped us get these victories," he continued. "There are some cars that are maybe a little bit faster than us that have had some unfortunate situations, and we've been able to capitalize on that. We're going to keep digging hard."

That thought was echoed by Johnson.

"We're working our guts out to make our cars faster," said the six-time champion. "We need to keep working hard, and hopefully when the Chase comes around, we have to hope we can put together the kind of stretch we just had. I think our worst race in four events is sixth.

"Some years, I think we peaked too early," he added. "This year, there are so many options with the rules package that we haven't explored everything yet. I still feel like there is a lot to learn about this car, and I don't think we've peaked too soon."

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