NASCAR: Keselowski wins Chase opener at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill. -- Brad Keselowski began the playoff portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series the same way he ended the regular season: with a win. Keselowski claimed his fifth victory of the year Sunday in the 400 at Chicagoland Spee...

JOLIET, Ill. -- Brad Keselowski began the playoff portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series the same way he ended the regular season: with a win.
Keselowski claimed his fifth victory of the year Sunday in the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first event in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Keselowski battled Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson three wide with 16 laps to go to take the late-race lead.
"I'm not really sure what to say," Keselowski said. "I don't really know what happened. I just know we got to the lead. There was traffic, and I was just digging and in the zone. The recorder was turned off, so I don't remember what happened. I had my head down doing all I could do.
"We had a great Miller Lite Ford Fusion that I knew from the start would be good, but, man, it was really awesome the last few runs. We really dialed it in, and the No. 2 crew did an excellent job. What a day. Man, I am still pumped."
Jeff Gordon finished second, and Larson, Joey Logano and Harvick rounded out the top five. Larson ran second with about two laps to go before bouncing off the wall while trying to hold off Gordon.
"I'm really proud of Kyle Larson. Man, what a great effort, such a young talent," said Gordon, one of the Chase competitors. "I really wanted to see him win that race because I like him, but I didn't what to see those other guys (Chase drivers Keselowski and Harvick) win it, either."
Keselowski was pulling away when the yellow flag came out for the sixth and final time when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got tangled up.
Keselowski was able to hold his lead on the restart that followed, and with about 10 laps left, he pulled away.

Harvick cycled to the lead after a round of green-flag pit stops that got under way around lap 146 of the 267-lap race. He ran in first until Larson got up front after another cycle of green-flag stops just before the fourth caution of the race with less than 50 laps remaining.

"It was a fun day," Harvick said. "I'm proud of all my guys on my Jimmy John's Chevrolet for the job they did, and it's a solid start to the Chase."

Kyle Busch led the opening laps of the race, but Gordon got by Busch to take the lead on lap 29. Jamie McMurray also led several laps before Busch retook the lead when he got off pit road first by taking only two tires during a caution that came out on lap 67.

Gordon moved back to the front, though, after restarting outside the top five, retaking the top spot on lap 88.


McMurray, despite taking only two tires during the first caution, took only two again when the yellow flag waved for the second time on lap 99. That enabled him to get off pit road first to retake the lead.

He lost the advantage to Keselowski on lap 107.

Keselowski remained up front until the round of green stops that saw Harvick cycle to the lead.

Keselowski continued to run near the front until he had to make two pit stops during the third caution of the race on lap 181. He took four tires on his first stop, but a loose wheel required a return trip to pit road.

"You have to be patient," Keselowski said when asked the key to getting back to the front. "The cars in traffic are all over the track, and it is very easy to spin out on your own, and you have to pace yourself. I don't know what to say. I am so thankful to be here. I want to say thanks, because I know the fans can hear me. I saw all of them standing on their feet when we made the pass for the lead, and that was awesome."

Keselowski's return to pit road moved Gordon up to second to restart next to Harvick on the front row. Gordon ran second for a while before eventually losing the position to Larson.

"Man, I was so close (to a first win)," Larson said. "I didn't need that caution, there. I was just cruising out front, and then we got that yellow and I had to battle Harvick really hard then. That allowed Brad to get by both of us. It really ended our shot at a win there."

NOTES: Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman started on the front row by having the two fastest practice speeds Friday. Rain washed away qualifying Friday evening. ... Kyle Busch dominated Saturday afternoon's Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland but finished third. Kevin Harvick was the winner. ... Kyle Busch also competed in the Camping World Truck Series, winning that race Saturday night. ... Kevin Harvick was the only Chase for the Sprint Cup driver with multiple Chicagoland wins heading into Sunday's race with two. ... Keselowski earned his second Chicagoland victory. He won in 2012, his championship year. ... After issues on pit road in recent weeks, Harvick headed to Chicagoland with key members of Tony Stewart's pit crew. ... Matt Kenseth came into the race as the defending winner, leading 89 laps on his way to the win last year. He came in 10th Sunday. ... Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske combined to win all races on mile-and-a-half tracks in the 26-race regular season.

What To Read Next
Get Local