Earnhardt already had 11 top-10 finishes this season and was second in the points standings entering this race. But after another close run at Pocono, the questions kept coming about his dry spell.
That's now over.
''Dale had the fastest car all day,'' Stewart said. ''It's not a national holiday, guys. This morning they were celebrating his fourth anniversary of his last win, so I guess we're all in a state of mourning now, because he's broke that string now, so I don't know what we're all supposed to think.''
Earnhardt remains second to Matt Kenseth in the standings.
Earnhardt's 143 races between wins was the sixth-longest streak in Sprint Cup history.
Like his last victory in Michigan, this one came on Father's Day -- fitting for the driver whose father has been so revered around NASCAR circles. Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001. ''Junior'' is now stock-car racing's most popular driver.
Earnhardt had lost 76 races in a row when he won in Michigan four years ago.
''That race four years ago was a fuel-mileage race,'' Earnhardt said. ''Today we just whooped 'em really good.''
Earnhardt moved past pole winner Marcos Ambrose on Lap 70 to take the lead, and although Stewart would lead for a bit, Earnhardt was in front again not long after the race's halfway point.
Earnhardt led on Lap 171, after a pitting cycle. With 25 laps remaining, he was ahead by 1.978 seconds. With 10 remaining, he had built a 5.468-second cushion.
The end was almost anticlimactic, and it gave the team a measure of vindication after Earnhardt played it safe at Pocono.
''It just proves to us that our strategy is correct,'' crew chief Steve Letarte said. ''If you bring fast enough racecars, you don't have to get outside your comfort zone too far.''
After finally winning, Earnhardt stopped in front of the grandstand and spun his wheels in front of thousands of fans who were on their feet screaming.
It was the 19th Cup victory of Earnhardt's career and second in 159 starts for Hendrick Motorsports. He had 17 victories in 291 races for Dale Earnhardt Inc.