Brad Keselowski claims win, points lead at Chicagoland

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Brad Keselowski certainly started the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship out right with a win in the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Coming off his first win as a team owner in the Camping World Truck Series Saturday night, Keselowski's fourth victory of the season gave him another reason to celebrate: he leads the Sprint Cup points for the first time in his career.

"Well, there's no better place to start than in the lead, right?" said Keselowski. "It was certainly a great race. My opinion is obviously a little skewed on that. A good race, how about that? With the 48 car, and really everybody, the 5 car was strong, and a couple others were really strong, the Gibbs cars were very strong, and our team just did a phenomenal job of executing, made some key adjustments during the race that got my car running really, really strong."

"To be able to race the 48, we've been wanting to race the 48 for many years as I think I've been in this sport, and to be able to race side by side within two or three seconds for probably almost 100 laps and come out on top is a real credit to his driving skills," said owner Roger Penske, who didn't have as nearly good a Saturday night as Keselowski did. (His driver Will Power lost the IZOD IndyCar Championship by just three points at Fontana.)

That No. 48 did earn the pole and lead the most laps, but just couldn't keep up with the Blue Deuce in the end. Jimmie Johnson's second-place finish puts him three points behind  Keselowski in the standings. "Yeah, just really proud of the team on all fronts, " Johnson said. "Overcame some adversity through or practice sessions, sat on pole, led a lot of laps today, fell some on pit road, race strategy, you name it, we had a very, very solid day.  Of course we would have loved to have won the race, but we'll take second and go on. This is a fantastic way to start the Chase."

Third-place finisher Kasey Kahne said, “The Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was good all day and we weren't as good as the 48 and we weren't as good as Brad (Keselowski) in the end.  He really got going but we had a great car, the pit stops were awesome and I felt good about it but we couldn't get any better."

Kyle Busch brought the No. 18 Wrigley's Chevy home in fourth, with Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Gene Haas Foundation Workshops For Warriors rounded out the top five.

Outside of Jeff Gordon's scary crash from a partially stuck throttle, the most drama the race produced came when Keselowski came onto the track from the pits. Johnson protested that Keselowski blended too soon and impeded his progress. NASCAR reviewed the incident but didn't agree. After the race Johnson said that while it slowed him a little, the encounter with the No. 2 didn't affect the outcome of the race. “The last maybe three runs he was definitely a factor and I was maybe a little better than him on the third-to-last," Johnson said, "then on the next-to-last we were about equal, but on that last one, he was just better."

There were a few odd moments in the 400-mile race, however. Matt Kenseth broke a shock, it fell onto the track, then he ran over it. Aric Almirola got hit with a drive-through penalty for a tire violation, but upon review NASCAR rescinded that penalty and allowed Almirola to drive back around and get the lap he lost under penalty. Finally, Travis Kvapil received a penalty for removing equipment from the pit stall when he dragged the jack all the way around the track under the left side of his car.

After the first race of the Chase, the points standings are: (1) B. Keselowski 2,056; (2) J. Johnson 2,053;(3) T. Stewart 2,048; (4) D. Hamlin 2,041; (5) K. Kahne 2,041; (6) C. Bowyer 2,041; (7) D. Earnhardt Jr. 2,039; (8) G. Biffle 2,037;(9) M. Truex Jr. 2,035;(10) K. Harvick 2,032; (11) M. Kenseth 2,030;(12) J. Gordon 2,009.

Full race results:

Fin.  Start Driver

1 13 Brad Keselowski
2 1 Jimmie Johnson
3 6 Kasey Kahne
4 21 Kyle Busch
5 20 Ryan Newman
6 29 Tony Stewart
7 10 Joey Logano
8 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9 18 Martin Truex Jr.
10 9 Clint Bowyer
11 16 Sam Hornish Jr.
12 35 Kevin Harvick
13 22 Greg Biffle
14 15 Mark Martin
15 11 Paul Menard
16 8 Denny Hamlin
17 2 Aric Almirola
18 3 Matt Kenseth
19 5 Carl Edwards
20 14 Trevor Bayne
21 12 Jamie McMurray
22 37 David Ragan
23 28 Juan Montoya
24 32 Jeff Burton
25 41 Danica Patrick
26 23 Bobby Labonte
27 17 Marcos Ambrose
28 40 David Gilliland
29 26 Landon Cassill
30 39 T.J. Bell
31 38 Travis Kvapil
32 30 Kurt Busch
33 42 Dave Blaney
34 7 Regan Smith
35 19 Jeff Gordon
36 27 Casey Mears
37 36 Cole Whitt
38 43 Josh Wise *
39 31 David Stremme
40 33 Joe Nemechek
41 25 Scott Speed
42 34 Mike Bliss
43 24 Michael McDowell

The next race will be Sep. 23, 2012 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Brad Keselowski claims win, points lead at Chicagoland  Brad Keselowski claims win, points lead at Chicagoland Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, September 16, 2012 Rating: 5