Brad Keselowski is the only Dodge driver to qualify for the NASCAR Chase for the Championship, the final 10-race, 12-driver shootout that will decide the 2012 Sprint Cup title. But in the first round of Chase in Chicago yesterday, Keselowski and his Dodge took control of the title fight, outrunning five-time champion Jimmie Johnson over the final laps to claim a decisive victory.
“There’s no better place to start than in the lead, right?” Keselowski said. “It feels like round one of a heavyweight title bout. It’s a 10-round bout, and week one is done. We might have won the round, but didn’t by any means knock them out.”
Keselowskis Dodge shuffled out ahead of Johnson in the final round of pit stops, taking the lead with 26 laps remaining. Johnson closed in at times on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland oval, but Keselowski appeared to be comfortably pacing him, restoring the gap. At the checkered flag, Keselowski was over three seconds ahead.
The 28 year-old Penske Racing driver now has his fourth Sprint Cup win of the season and the eighth of his career. With his first Chase victory, Keselowski leads the retotaled Chase points standings with 47 to Johnsons 44. And with 10 top 10 finishes in the past 11 races, currently Keselowski has the hottest hand of any driver in the Chase.