Keselowski wins Chase-opener at Chicagoland

Joliet, IL (Sports Network) - Brad Keselowski moved atop the point standings for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career after winning Sunday's first race in the championship Chase at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski overtook Jimmie Johnson for position during the last round of green-flag pit stops in the Geico 400. Johnson started on the pole and dominated most of this race by leading 172 of 267 laps. He pitted from the top position with 38 laps remaining, while Keselowski made his stop on the following lap.

After Keselowski exited the pits, he got up to speed quick enough to advance his position on Johnson. Prior to the stops, he had trailed Johnson by two seconds.

"I don't know what happened to the 48 (Johnson), if he slowed down or I sped up on the last run, I can't tell which one," Keselowski said. "For some reason, we just took off."

Keselowski took the lead for good with 26 laps to go when David Ragan was the last driver to make his stop. Keselowski then beat Johnson to the finish line by 3.17 seconds for his fourth win this season and the eighth of his Sprint Cup career. It was also his first victory in a Chase race.

"We're in victory lane for race one in the Chase," said Keselowski, who is in the postseason for the second straight year. "It feels like round one of a heavyweight title bout. It's good to win it, but there's a lot of rounds left."

The win allowed Keselowski to take a three-point lead over Johnson, who has yet to win a Cup race at this 1.5-mile racetrack.

"This is a great way to start the Chase for us," Johnson said. "It's 10 long races, and a lot can happen. To come out of here with second is a great day."

Kasey Kahne, who qualified for the Chase with a wild card, finished third, while non-title contenders Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman rounded out the top- five.

"We weren't as good as (Johnson) and (Keselowski), but we had a great car and the pit stops were awesome," Kahne said.

Tony Stewart began his campaign for a second straight series championship with a sixth-place finish. Stewart won last year's race at Chicagoland and then claimed four more victories in the Chase to capture his third title. He is now eight point behind Keselowski.

Joey Logano placed seventh, followed by Chase drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

The remaining championship contenders and their finishing positions include: Kevin Harvick (12th), Greg Biffle (13th), Denny Hamlin (16th), Matt Kenseth (18th) and Jeff Gordon (35th).

Hamlin entered this 400-mile race as the points leader, but ran out of fuel while he was running among the top-10 on the final lap. He fell 15 points out of the lead.

During the mid-stages, the right-front shock on Kenseth's car came apart. The 2012 Daytona 500 champion had to pit multiple times during a caution to repair the shock.

"I guess the shock wasn't tight enough, and it fell off," Kenseth said. "It just really wrecked our day. It was frustrating."

Gordon experienced a stuck throttle and crashed into the wall on lap 188.

"I just let off the throttle, and it just didn't come all the way back," he said. "In this deal, you can't afford to have issues like that."

Gordon barely made it into the Chase, earning the second and last wild card by just a three-point margin over Busch. He had finished second in the past two races -- Atlanta and Richmond. Gordon trails Keselowski by 47 points.

09/16 18:51:06 ET

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