Sunday, September 16, 2012

Keselowski Makes a Statement

When Jimmie Johnson rolled into Chicago, he and his team were ready to win their first race at Chicagoland, and begin their quest for a sixth Sprint Cup Championship.  He was dominant most of the day, and seemed poised to begin his title hunt with a win.  But Brad Keselowski had other things on his mind, and he was able to get around Johnson to win the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Keselowski celebrates (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson led Aric Almirola to the green flag, and Almirola was able to get around Johnson for the lead coming out of Turn 2.  Johnson was able to get back around Almirola on lap four.  On lap seven, Kasey Kahne was able to get second away from Almirola.  Kahne set his sights on Johnson, but Almirola would not let him get away, and got back around him on lap 24.

On lap 40, Sam Hornish Jr. and Mark Martin pitted to start a round of green flag pit stops.  The stops cycled around by lap 48, and Johnson was once again the leader.  During the stops, Aric Almirola had to serve a penalty for a wild tire during their stops.  Almirola had been running in the Top 5 at the time.

The day's first caution came out on lap 66 for debris in Turn 2.  The leaders came in to pit under the caution, and most took two tires.  Brad Keselowski was the first driver to take four tires, and dropped from third to tenth.  The race restarted on lap 72, and Johnson led Kahne and Denny Hamlin to the green flag.

Johnson leads the field (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The second caution of the day came out on lap 100 for debris in Turn 3.  The leaders came in to make pit stops, and Keselowski was able to beat Johnson off pit road.  Keselowski led the field to the green flag on lap 106, and was able to clear Johnson heading into Turn 1.  Johnson continued to stalk Keselowski, but for almost 20 laps he couldn't make up any ground on Keselowski, who had taken two tires on the previous pit stop compared to Johnson's four.

On lap 143, Kurt Busch pitted to begin another round of green flag pit stops.  In the middle of pit stops, Casey Mears pounded the outside wall in Turn 1 to bring out the caution on lap 149.  The rest of the leaders came in to make their pit stops, and Johnson was able to get out ahead of Keselowski.  Under the caution, 23 cars took the wave-around because they got caught a lap down during the cycle of stops.

Johnson led Keselowski, Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Ryan Newman to the green flag on lap 158.  Johnson was able to clear Keselowski heading into Turn 1 to take the lead.  Johnson led until the caution on lap 188 for Jeff Gordon.  Gordon slammed the outside wall when his throttle stuck heading into the corner.  The field came in to make pit stops, and Johnson was able to beat Keselowski off pit road.  Under the caution, Matt Kenseth's team went under the hood to replace a missing shock absorber.

Gordon's car sits in the garage (Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
The race restarted on lap 195, and Johnson got a push from Kasey Kahne to get past Keselowski for the lead.  On lap 204, Dave Blaney lost power on the track, but he was able to limp around to the pits without bringing out a caution.  On lap 224, Mark Martin made his final green flag pit stop, and started another round of pit stops.  Johnson gave up the lead to make his pit stop with just 38 laps to go.

Before stops had cycled around, Keselowski was able to pass Johnson coming back up on the track, after Johnson had been leading by over 1.6 seconds before they made their stops.  Johnson and Chad Knaus were trying to get NASCAR to review the pass because Johnson believed that the No. 2 came up the track too soon and messed up his lap.  After reviewing the situation, NASCAR said that Keselowski was all-good.

When David Ragan pitted with 25 laps to go, Keselowski inherited the lead, and had begun to pull away from Johnson.  Keselowski was able to pull away from Johnson to win his fourth race of the season.

After dominating most of the day, Jimmie Johnson had to settle for a second place finish.  Kasey Kahne finished third, Kyle Busch was fourth, and Ryan Newman was fifth.  Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively.  Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the Top 10.  Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle finished 12th and 13th, respectively.  Mark Martin finished 14th after an uneventful day.  Denny Hamlin ran out of gas on the last lap, and finished 16th.  Matt Kenseth finished 18th.  Danica Patrick finished 25th, two laps down.  Jeff Gordon eventually came back out on the track, but he finished 35th, 77 laps down.

Here is what the points picture looks like (unofficially) after the Geico 400, courtesy of
Brad Keselowski came into Chicagoland and made a statement.  He let everyone in the Sprint Cup Series know that he is out to win his first Sprint Cup Series Championship.  He is hoping to give Roger Penske his first Sprint Cup Series Championship as an owner, and he got that started off on the right foot with his win today.  Next week, the Chase continues at Loudon.  The Sylvania 300 can be seen at 1 p.m., only on ESPN.

Geoff Burke/Getty Images

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