Brad Keselowski strikes first with chase opening win

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest car all weekend, he sat on the pole and led most of the laps of the GEICO 400.

In the end of the day, though, it was the No. 2 Dodge of Brad Keselowski that proved to be just a little bit faster than Johnson in the opening round of the NASCAR Chase of the Championship.

“Either the 48 [Johnson’s car] slowed or we sped up,” Keselowski said to ESPN reporters after the race.

It came down to a final round of green flag pit stops. Johnson was leading by over half a second over Keselowski. Johnson pitted one lap earlier than Keselowski, and when Keselowski came back onto the track after his pit stop he had caught up to Johnson.

That proved to be the move of the race.

Johnson blew past the coming-up-to speed No. 2 of Keselowski, but not for long. Keselowski caught the No. 48 of Johnson in the middle of turns three and four and was able to pull away from Johnson going down the front stretch.

That was the final, and one of the very few, times that a driver was able to pass Johnson most of the day. But before that Johnson knew that his biggest competition would be coming from Keselowski.

“The last three runs [Keselowski] was the faster car,” Johnson told ESPN crews after the race.

There was some controversy on how Keselowski won the race though.

After the last pit stop came, Keselowski drove on the apron of the race track, like he is supposed to and blended on the track near the exit of turn two.

Johnson and the rest of the No. 48 crew, though complained to NASCAR officials that Keselowski blended on the track too early and that was what they believed to be the move that cost Johnson the win, since Johnson had to slow his momentum a little to get by Keselowski.

After reviewing the tape though, NASCAR officials determined that Keselowski blended in the right spot of the track.

“Either the 48 slowed or we gained speed,” Keselowski said of Johnson’s car. “[My car] just took off.”

It is the first time that Keselowski has won at Chicagoland and the first time that he has won a race in the Chase. With the win, Keselowski also took over the points lead, but he knows that this is just round 1 of a very tough 10 weeks to come.

“There’s still 9 rounds of fighting left,” Keselowski told SPEED reporters after the race. “We are not out of it after round one that is all we can say.”

While Keselowski can say he is not out of the championship race yet, there are some drivers that find themselves in a hole after the opening round of the Chase.

Jeff Gordon, who was at one point in contention for the win, saw his day go south when his car’s throttle stuck and he went sailing into the turn one wall.

Gordon and crew were able to make repairs to his car, but they now find themselves 47 points, almost one full race out of the championship lead.

With the strong run of Johnson, almost getting the win and a maximum points day, because he led the most laps, Johnson stayed in second in the points championship battle.

Only twice has the eventual champion won the first race of the Chase, it happened in 2004 with Kurt Busch and 2011 with Tony Stewart.

GEICO 400 results:

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