KESELOWSKI SNAGS RACE 1 OF THE CHASE
Jeff Gordon was the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title contender out of contention at Chicagoland Speedway. Gordon sat in the garage as his No. 24 team worked on his car in the garage, then emerged for the final laps (photo courtesy: Tyler Barrick, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Brad Keselowski led the final 38 laps of the GEICO 400 en route to winning the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway. The 10-race Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 18. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Keselowski outdueled five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson, after taking the lead during the final round of green-flag pit stops. Keselowski pitted with 38 laps to go, one lap later than Johnson, and raced back onto the track just ahead of the No. 48 car setting up the victory.
"We're in victory lane, Race 1 of the Chase," said Keselowski. "It feels like Round 1 of a heavyweight title bout. It's good to win it. It feels great. But there's a lot of rounds left."
Johnson, the pole sitter, led a race-high 172 laps in the first segment of the 10-race Chase, but was unable to hold off Keselowski down the stretch.
"That last one, he was just better. Congratulations to those guys; they did an awesome job," Johnson said. "But a great way to start the Chase for us. Its 10 long races, a lot can happen. So to come out of here second is a great day."
Keselowski earned his fourth Sprint Cup win of the season on Sunday.
The additional 10 Chase drivers finished within the top 18, with the exception of Jeff Gordon, who finished 35th. Kasey Kahne finished in third, Tony Stewart was in sixth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eighth followed by Martin Truex Jr. in the ninth position and Clint Bowyer in 10th. Kevin Harvick was 12th and Greg Biffle followed in 13th while Denny Hamlin finished 16th after running out of fuel and Matt Kenseth closed out the day in 18th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. predicted he could overcome his blown engine following qualifying at Chicagoland Speedway.
But while he was able to drive through the field and use pit strategy to crack the top 10 after starting at the rear of the field, he wasn’t able to gain much more ground and had to settle for an eighth-place finish in the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I’m not that disappointed in the car,” Earnhardt said. “It was actually a pretty good car. … I really believe we’ve got a shot to win the championship, and we need to be great.”
Earnhardt felt his car was at its best early in the race, when he had to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change Saturday afternoon.
Earnhardt needed just 30 laps to crack the top 20 and was ninth by lap 90 of the 267-lap event.
“We were great at the start of the race,” Earnhardt said. “We had real good speed. … We made a couple of adjustments I just didn’t like—we took a little wedge out, got the car a little free in, and we dropped the track bar, which I never, ever like.”
Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is New Hampshire on Sunday, September 23 (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) — en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.