Keselowski Captures Chase Opener
JOLIET, Ill. – Brad Keselowski fired the first shot of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, winning Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson looked to have Sunday’s race well in hand, but things changed during the final cycle of green flag pit stops. Johnson and Keselowski ended up side-by-side immediately after making their respective pit stops, with Keselowski managing to squeeze in front of Johnson.
From there, Keselowski pulled away from Johnson to win his fourth race of the year in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge and establish himself as a legitimate threat to win his first Sprint Cup championship.
“We were both showing our hand. I don’t know what happened, either the 48 (Johnson) slowed down or we speed up on the last run. I can’t tell which one,” Keselowski said from victory lane. “For some reason we just took off.”
With the victory, Keselowski takes over the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship lead by three points over Johnson.
“It feels like round one of a heavyweight title bout,” Keselowski said. “It’s good to win it, it feels great, but there are a lot of rounds left.”
Johnson led the most laps and finished second in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“The last maybe three runs he was definitely a factor,” Johnson said of Keselowski. “I was probably a little better than him on the third to last, next to last we were about equal and on that one he was just better. Congratulations to those guys, they did an awesome job.”
Kasey Kahne was third, followed by Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman. Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.
Denny Hamlin, who entered the race as the point leader, ran out of fuel on the final lap and finished 16th.
The other Chase contenders finished 12th (Kevin Harvick), 13th (Greg Biffle), 18th (Matt Kenseth) and 35th (Jeff Gordon).