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A win at the GEICO 400 on Sunday had Brad Keselowski on top of the racing world. According to the NASCAR point standings, he will stay there for at least a week.
Keselowski's victory vaulted him to the top of the standings, three points ahead of Jimmie Johnson.
Trailing Johnson is Tony Stewart, the only other driver within 10 points of first.
Sunday was also a good day for Kasey Kahne, who moved up six positions to fifth and trails Keselowski by 15 points.
The GEICO 400 was disastrous for Jeff Gordon. His day was ended early after he ran into the wall, and he now sits 47 points pack of first place.
The top-12 racers are below:
A strong final pit spot spelled a victory for Brad Keselowski and the Miller Lite No. 2 car team, as the Roger Penske driver took the victory away from Jimmie Johnson, who led 171 laps on the night.
Johnson ended up finishing second, followed by Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.
After just barely qualifying for the Chase, Jeff Gordon had trouble all night, and finished 35th.
Here's the full, official finishing order from Chicago:
|2||Jimmie Johnson||3.171 sec|
|3||Kasey Kahne||10.585 sec|
|4||Kyle Busch||13.757 sec|
|5||Ryan Newman||17.409 sec|
|6||Tony Stewart||18.893 sec|
|7||Joey Logano||20.105 sec|
|8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||21.105 sec|
|9||Martin Truex Jr.||21.406 sec|
|10||Clint Bowyer||22.419 sec|
|11||Sam Hornish Jr.||23.923 sec|
|12||Kevin Harvick||27.937 sec|
|13||Greg Biffle||27.968 sec|
|14||Mark Martin||28.835 sec|
|15||Paul Menard||31.581 sec|
|16||Denny Hamlin||33.690 sec|
|17||Aric Almirola||1 lap(s)|
|18||Matt Kenseth||1 lap(s)|
|19||Carl Edwards||1 lap(s)|
|20||Trevor Bayne||1 lap(s)|
|21||Jamie McMurray||1 lap(s)|
|22||David Ragan||1 lap(s)|
|23||Juan Pablo Montoya||2 lap(s)|
|24||Jeff Burton||2 lap(s)|
|25||Danica Patrick||2 lap(s)|
|26||Bobby Labonte||3 lap(s)|
|27||Marcos Ambrose||4 lap(s)|
|28||David Gilliland||4 lap(s)|
|29||Landon Cassill||5 lap(s)|
|30||T.J. Bell||6 lap(s)|
|31||Travis Kvapil||8 lap(s)|
|32||Kurt Busch||22 lap(s)|
|33||Dave Blaney||68 lap(s)|
|34||Regan Smith||70 lap(s)|
|35||Jeff Gordon||77 lap(s)|
|36||Casey Mears||121 lap(s)|
|37||Cole Whitt||197 lap(s)|
|38||Josh Wise||201 lap(s)|
|39||David Stremme||207 lap(s)|
|40||Joe Nemechek||215 lap(s)|
|41||Scott Speed||218 lap(s)|
|42||Mike Bliss||226 lap(s)|
|43||Michael McDowell||229 lap(s)|
Chalk up the first win of the Chase for Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske's No. 2 MIller Lite-sponsored team.
Keselowski took the lead from a dominant Jimmie Johnson leaving pit road on his last stop and pulled away to win the Geico 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. It is Keselowski's fourth win of 2012, his eighth Sprint Cup win, and his first as a Chase driver. In addition, Keselowski now holds a three point edge on Johnson for the championship.
Johnson finished second after leading 171 laps. Once again he's been denied a victory at Chicago, one of five tracks he has yet to win on, but he still is positioned well to make a run at his sixth crown.
Kasey Kahne had a quiet but strong day in finishing third. Kyle Busch finished fourth and Ryan Newman was fifth, the duo leading the way among non-Chase drivers.
Defending series champ Tony Stewart came home sixth, Joey Logano was seventh, and Chasers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10. Kevin Harvick finished 12th and Greg Biffle was 13th. Denny Hamlin ran out of gas on the last lap and wound up 16th.
Matt Kenseth rebounded from a broken shock to finish 18th. The Chase dog of the day was Jeff Gordon, who's throttle stuck on lap 189 and sent him slamming into the turn one wall. He briefly returned to the track with nine laps to go before returning to the garage in 35th place.
In the first stunning moment of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Jeff Gordon has slammed the turn one wall and taken his No. 24 Chevrolet behind the wall at lap 189 of the Geico 400. Gordon told his team he believed his throttle stuck, leaving him helplessly on a path into the wall. The crash is a massive blow to Gordon's hopes of winning the 2012 Chase and claiming a fifth championship after his stirring drive to make the Chase last weekend.
Gordon's misfortune is Matt Kenseth's fortune. The Roush-Fenway driver lost the right-front shock in his Ford and was about to be lapped at the time of Gordon's accident. Now his team can replace the shock and hopefully salvage the day as Kenseth looks to leave Roush with a title.
Jimmie Johnson has dominated the race and is now the race leader. Brad Keselowski runs second ahead of Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano. Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Carl Edwards complete the current top-five.
Though he didn't exactly end the regular season with the kind of searing run that got Denny Hamlin all the headlines entering the Chase, Brad Keselowski has been considered a driver to watch once the 10-race playoff got started.
He's out front after 125 laps in the Chase-opening Geico 400, with a dominant Jimmie Johnson right in his tire tracks. The 2010 Nationwide Series champ is looking to give Roger Penske his first-ever championship in NASCAR's premier division. Nicknamed "Bad Brad" for his aggressive and cocky nature, Keselowski seems ready to take the step to become a Sprint Cup titlist.
While those two lead the way, Kasey Kahne runs third, where he has been pretty much all race. Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates (until Logano departs after the season) that aren't in the Chase, round out the top-five. Hamlin in the third Gibbs Toyota runs sixth, ahead of defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick.
Stewart and Harvick have both come on after adversity early. Stewart charged toward the top-10. He had to make a second pit stop so the team could look over the right-front hub on his Chevy, dropping him back to 29th - where he began the race. He has since made his way back inside the top-10.
Harvick, meanwhile, struggled mightily early on but his Chevy has cracked the top-10. The only Richard Childress Racing driver in the Chase, Harvick is trying to become that organization's first champion since the late Dale Earnhardt claimed his seventh and final championship in 1994.
The first yellow of the Geico 400 is out after 65 laps for debris on the race track. The caution erases Jimmie Johnson's lead over Kasey Kahne, with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top-five. Johnson has dominated the race, leading 59 laps early on after starting on the pole.
Kyle Busch ran sixth, ahead of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and the Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer. Seven of the top-10 drivers were Chasers.
Under the first cycle of green flag pit stops, early contender Aric Almirola - who led the opening three laps of the race after starting second - was penalized for having an out of control tire. NASCAR reviewed the incident further and has given Almirola his lap back under this yellow flag, though he remains at the rear of the lead lap rather than moving back into the top-five as he ran early in the race.
Jimmie Johnson couldn't hold of Aric Almirola to lead the first lap of the Geico 400, but he scooted back out front after three laps and has been in the lead ever since at the Chicagoland Speedway. With 25 laps complete, Johnson holds the top spot over Almirola, with Chasers Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski completing the top-five.
Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth, two more contenders, run sixth and seventh, with Joey Logano and Regan Smith holding the eighth and ninth spots. Jeff Gordon rounds out the top-10 early.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been on the move since starting dead last thanks to an engine change Saturday. His No. 88 Chevrolet is already upto 21st. Also on the move is Tony Stewart, who has climbed from his 29th-place to run 15th. Kevin Harvick has come from 35th to run 22nd.
Heading the other way is Martin Truex Jr., who has backslid to 24th after starting 19th.
The green flag in today's Geico 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway - and the start of the fight for this year's Sprint Cup crown - is less than one hour away. Here is a mini-profile for all 12 of the drivers making a run at the title.
Denny Hamlin is the Chase's No. 1 seed, having won four races in the opening 26 races. The Virginia short track ace first really came into national prominence when, in an televised interview where he was asked to define "underrated," Dale Earnhardt Jr. responded with Hamlin. He then became a Sprint Cup star with Joe Gibbs Racing. He led the points entering the final race at Miami in 2010, but an early spin left him second when everything was said and done. After a disappointing 2011, Hamlin has had a solid year led by crew chief Darian Grubb, who won last year's title at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Jimmie Johnson is our sport's only five-time consecutive Sprint Cup champion. The Californian grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of IndyCar legend Rick Mears, but his career path led him to stock cars. A protege of Jeff Gordon, Johnson had not finished outside the top-five in the final standings in his Sprint Cup career until last season, when he wound up sixth. Johnson is on the pole for today's race, and his dominant performances earlier at points in the regular season along with his team's motivation after losing last season has many pegging the Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team for another title run.
Tony Stewart is arguably the greatest race car driver of his generation, the only driver to win championships in USAC, IndyCar, and NASCAR. That kind of versatility conjures up images of Stewart's hero A.J. Foyt, the inspiration for the No. 14 on the doors of Chevrolets he co-owns and drives. His five-for-ten run to win last year's Sprint Cup crown after going winless during the regular season - and declaring with three weeks left that his team didn't deserve to make the Chase - has changed the way folks perceive the 10-race playoff. In short, any one of his 11 rivals could dethrone Stewart, while his Steve-Addington led team could help the Hoosier become the first repeat champion not named Jimmie Johnson since Gordon in 1997-98.
Bad Brad Keselowski is regarded - sometimes warmly, sometimes not - as the antithesis to the polished, politically correct young star that is the prototype for today's race car driver. Blunt and barring no holds, the Michigan native has enjoyed his second-straight three-win regular season. Unlike 2011, however, he's in the Chase on points rather than a wild card, meaning he gets the benefit of those nine bonus points. Paul Wolfe - a former racer himself - leads Keselowski's No. 2 team and hopes to deliver Roger Penske's first Sprint Cup title.
Greg Biffle is seeking to make history with a Sprint Cup crown. The title would allow him to become the first driver to win championships in all three of NASCAR's national divisions, following triumphs in the Camping World Truck Series (2000) and Nationwide Series (2002). The only driver to even win a Nationwide crown and then win a championship in Sprint Cup is Bobby Labonte. Biffle's Matt Puccia-led No. 16 Roush-Fenway Racing team won twice in leading the regular season points.
Clint Bowyer is the popular, affable, and downright funny as heck Kansan. He spent his Sprint Cup career with Richard Childress Racing up until this year, when he joined Michael Waltrip Racing as driver of its No. 15 Toyota. Bowyer - who got his start racing dirt bikes and was working in a body shop in his Kansas hometown when he caught the eye of Childress - has won twice this season with crew chief Brian Pattie including the regular season finale at Richmond last weekend.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been the undisputed king of NASCAR's most popular driver award, winning it every year since 2003. This season, he has looked the part of a Sprint Cup champion, enjoying the most consistent season of any of the Chasers and breaking a four-year winless drought in June at Michigan. Earnhardt has looked like a new man while racing with crew chief Steve Letarte, and the racer has admitted that the crew change that put Letarte atop his pit box has been a career - and life -changing experience for the North Carolina racer.
Matt Kenseth is looking to break the perception that a "lame duck" driver can't win a championship. It's never been done in NASCAR's modern era, a driver winning a championship with himself and the rest of the world knowing he'd be racing elsewhere the next season. Kenseth's tenure with Jack Roush brought the legendary owner his first championship (2003) and his only two Daytona 500 wins (2009 and 2012). The Wisconsinite possesses the driest sense of humor in the garage and a Silver Fox-esque - that's David Pearson, for you NASCAR neophytes - ability to save his equipment until it's time to go racing, popping up near the end to challenge for a win or a top spot.
Kevin Harvick might be the driver primed to repeat Stewart's feat in 2012. Winless through the opening 26 races, the Bakersfield native changed crew chiefs with three races left and the performance of his No. 29 Chevy improved. Harvick and his wife Delana have had a life-changing 2012 season, becoming first-time parents (a son, Keelan) and ceasing ownership of a race team that competed in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series for years. Having long shed his label as "the driver who took over for Dale Earnhardt" after the legendary racer's death in 2001, Harvick is his own man and could join Labonte as the only champion of NASCAR's top-two divisions.
Martin Truex Jr. has come tantalizingly close to ending his five-year winless streak in 2012. Whether or not he challenges for the title, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver should almost certainly end that drought with his second-career win at some point during the Chase. Truex, who made New Jersey cool long before those reality show buffoons made it the laughing stock of, well, the world, was once a protege of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He won two championships in the Nationwide Series for Earnhardt's team in 2004 and 2005.
Kasey Kahne, regarded as "The Quiet One," is NASCAR's most popular driver - when it comes to teenage girls. He has plenty of fans among longtime fans who appreciate his raw ability to drive a race car. The Washington native opened his first season with Hendrick Motorsports with a miserable stretch of accidents before turning things around with a searing summer that nearly allowed him to make the Chase via points, which would have let him use his bonus points for his wins in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and Loudon in July. Kahne is a former USAC champion cut from the same mold as Stewart and the 12th and final Chase driver.
That, of course, is Jeff Gordon. The four-time Sprint Cup champion's improbable comeback to make the Chase - first after a dismal first half of 2012, then after being a lap down early at Richmond - brought emotion out of Gordon not often seen even after many of his 86 race wins. Long despised among fans in the south as the antithesis to Dale Earnhardt, Gordon has become one of the sport's most beloved competitors - thanks in large part to Johnson's emergence as the new "villain." Gordon has just one win in 2012, but his Alan Gustafson-led team has been in contention many times over the season. If they can shed the bad luck that plagued them early, Gordon's 11-year-long Drive for Five could finally bear fruit.
The 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship comes to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., with weekend full of racing action leading up to Sunday's running of the GEICO 400.
The lineup for the 10 race Sprint Cup Championship playoff is: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Of the field, Johnson and Hamlin are the strongest favorites to win the championship.
The GEICO 400 will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. with television coverage provided by broadcast on ESPN2.
After turning the fourth-fastest lap in Sprint Cup qualifying at the Chicagoland Speedway, it looked as though Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have a great view of the green flag in Sunday's Geico 400 as he begins his bid for his first-career championship.
Unfortunately, Earnhardt's engine over-revved as he popped it out of gear at the conclusion of his run, causing a piston to hit a valve in his Hendrick engine. Few things doom an engine quicker than a broken valve, and the Steve Letarte-led No. 88 team has been forced to change engines in the National Guard-sponsored Chevy.
Of course, that means NASCAR's one-engine-per-weekend rule will send Earnhardt to the rear of the field for the start of Sunday's race.
Hendrick Motorsports had some engine drama a few weeks ago in Michigan, of course. Jimmie Johnson changed engines during Saturday morning practice, dropping him to the rear (along with Earnhardt, who wrecked his car). Then, in the race, Tony Stewart (who's Stewart-Haas Racing team uses Hendrick power), Jeff Gordon, and finally Johnson while leading the race fewer than ten laps from the conclusion blew their engines.
Five-time Sprint Cup Jimmie Johnson has fired the first shot of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The Hendrick Motorsports driver toured the Chicagoland Speedway in 29.53 seconds to claim the pole for Sunday's playoff-opening Geico 400.
Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola, driving The King's iconic No. 43, will start from outside the front row as he looks to spoil the Chasers party.
Chasers Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start third and fourth, while Carl Edwards rolls off fifth in his first race since officially being eliminated from a chance to make up for the title he lost a year ago.
Kasey Kahne will begin his title bid from the sixth spot, while Regan Smith will start seventh. Pre-Chase favorite Denny Hamlin rolls off eighth, next to fellow title hopeful Clint Bowyer. Joey Logano has position number 10, matching the number of races he has left in the Home Depot-sponsored Toyota.
As far as the other title contenders go, Brad Keselowski led the way in 13th place. Martin Truex Jr., who led practice, qualified 18th as he looks to finally break a five-year winless streak that he's come heartbreakingly close to ending twice already this year.
Jeff Gordon, perhaps as elated last Saturday when he qualified for the Chase as he has been after most of his 86 race wins and four championships, will start 19th as he starts the 11th edition of his "Drive for Five."
Greg Biffle, who led the regular season points, was 22nd in Jack Roush's Ford, with defending champ Tony Stewart (29th) and Kevin Harvick (35th) rounding out the Chase field.
David Ragan of Unadilla was 37th in his No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports. Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson was one of four drivers failing to qualify, along with Scott Riggs, J.J. Yeley, and Jason Leffler.
Full qualifying results can be found at NASCAR.com, but instead of sending you on a scavenger hunt, you can just click here.
The 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship starts this Sunday with the Geico 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. Top-seeded Denny Hemlin is the nominal favorite going into the Chase, but it could be weeks before a clear pecking order presents itself. Last year’s Cup winner Tony Stewart won the 2011 Geico 400, which jumpstarted his run to the overall title. Stewart enters this year’s Chase sitting third in the standings.
Hemlin has won two of his last three Sprint Cup races, taking the checkered flags at Bristol and Atlanta before finishing 18th in Richmond last weekend. He won four Spring Cup races total during the 2012 season. Hemlin spoke to reporters as part of Media Day and rated his chances of winning the Sprint Cup Championship at “8.5 or 9” out of 10.
Qualifying kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and can be seen on the Speed Network. ESPN will broadcast the Geico 400 at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Check out our SB Nation NASCAR hub for more auto racing.
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series come to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. starting Friday, culminating in the running of the GEICO 400 on Sunday afternoon. The weekend begins with Sprint Cup practice at 1 p.m. on Friday. 90 minutes later at 2:30, the Nationwide Series have their first practice session.
The two series will have another practice session on Friday, the Sprint Cup at 4 p.m. and the Nationwide Series at 5:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon begins with Nationwide Series has qualifying for the Dollar General 300 at noon, broadcast on the Speed Network. Sprint Cup qualifying for the GEICO 400 will take place at 1:30 p.m., also broadcast on Speed.
The Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 will take place Saturday at 3:30 p.m, broadcast on ESPN 2. The Sprint Cup's GEICO 400 will take place Sunday at 1 p.m., broadcast on ESPN.
The 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship opens at Chicagoland Speedway. Tony Stewart won last year's Geico 400, beginning his improbable run to a third crown.
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