The first race in the 2012 NSACAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Cup has come and gone and with it, Brad Keselowski not only has earned himself a victory at the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, but also finds himself sitting atop the leaderboard in the Chase.
Keselowski, who has never won a Chase event before, has now done so and holds a three point lead over second place driver (both in the race and in the standings) Jimmie Johnson. Keselowski took over the lead with 26 laps remaining and never relinquished it to Johnson, who finished 3.171 seconds behind him.
The victory was Keselowski’s fourth of the season but without question his most important one. The race was a good one for most of the drivers in the Chase as 11 of the 12 competitors finished in the top 18, excluding Jeff Gordon (finished in 35th place), who hit the wall with just 80 laps remaining in the 400 lap race. Tony Stewart finished sixth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. eighth, Martin Truex Jr. ninth, Clint Bowyer 10th, Kevin Harvick 12th and Greg Biffle 13th.
The updated standings now have Keselowski ahead of the pack and Gordon sits 47 points behind him with plenty of catching up to do and just nine races remaining. Stewart trails Keselowski by eight points (sitting third in the standings) while there is a log jam at fourth place in the standings between Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Bowyer, who are all trailing Keselowski by 15 points. Earnhardt Jr. is still in good striking distance as well, sitting in seventh just 17 points behind the leader.
In the Chase, one race can make a world of difference and that’s what many of the drivers are aiming for with their hops and dreams of claiming the Cup very much still alive. Up next on the schedule is the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire, a track that Kahne won at earlier in the season and hopes he can do so again to earn him some much-needed points in order to gain ground on Keselowski.