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NASCAR At Chicago: Brad Keselowski Assumes Lead

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.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.