Brad Keselowski made the first major statement in the 2012 Chase for the Cup by taking the checkered flag at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland tri-oval speedway on Sunday.
With the win in the first Chase playoff race, Keselowski jumps into first place with a three-point lead over five-time champ Jimmie Johnson, who finished second in this race.
Keselowski had a strong car all day, but for the majority of this race, he was chasing pole-sitter Johnson. Johnson led the most laps in this race, but in the final laps, it was clear he didn't have the horses to catch Keselowski.
Keselowski was flowing through lapped traffic with ease, and he actually increased his lead and won by over three seconds. This is the first time Keselowski has ever had the NASCAR points lead.
Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin busted his tail all year to enter the Chase with the points lead, and he saw it all come undone on the last lap.
Hamlin was running ninth, and he ran out of gas on the last lap to wind up finishing 16th. Those are a lot of crucial points to drop on the last lap. He is now in fourth, 15 points behind Keselowski. This is in no way an insurmountable lead, but it was certainly a frustrating finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an action-packed afternoon. After having to drop a new engine in his car, the No. 88 team was forced to start in the back after qualifying for fourth.
He then battled his way to the top 10, fell back down and battled his way back and wound up with a solid eighth-place finish.
Jeff Gordon had a long day, and while he is not out of the Chase after just one race, it will be a tall task for him to get back into contention. He struggled with mechanical issues that included his throttle sticking.
Geico 400 Results
|8||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||88||Chevrolet|
|9||Martin Truex Jr.||56||Toyota|
|11||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22||Dodge|
Chase for the Cup Standings
|7||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||-17|
|9||Martin Truex, Jr.||-21|