Monday, September 17, 2012

Statement Win For Keselowski In Round One of Chase

Keselowski outran Johnson down the stretch
Brad Keselowski equated Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway to the opening round of a heavyweight title fight. No knockout blows were landed, but when the final bell sounded, the Penske Racing driver stood defiantly in the center of the ring after going nose-to-nose with the champion, and even bloodying his nose. 

Keselowski beat five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson off pit road by a car length following the day’s final pit stop Sunday, then dominated the final 38 circuits en route to comfortable, 3.1 second decision in the opening round of the 2012 Chase. 

Johnson appeared to be the dominator on this day, leading 172 of  267 total laps; often by wide margins. But as the clock ticked down, it was Keselowski who threw the heavy leather, pulling directly in front of Johnson while exiting pit road on Lap 232 and forcing the former champion to check-up to avoid a collision. Johnson and his team immediately questioned the legality of Keselowski's maneuver, and it might have inspired post-race controversy had Keselowski not staggered Johnson down the stretch, leaving him in his wake while bobbing and weaving flawlessly through a difficult pack of late lapped traffic. 

Round One to the Blue Deuce
“It feels like Round One of a heavyweight title bout,” said Keselowski, who now owns the Sprint Cup championship lead by three points over Johnson. “It's a 10-round bout. Week One is done and we won the round, but we didn't by any means knock them out. We're feeling good about today, but know we have a lot of work to do.” 

Keselowski promised to keep his Chicagoland win in perspective, focusing almost immediately on the nine bloody rounds that almost certainly lie ahead.

“I haven't allowed (the win) to sink in,” he said. “I'm not going to let it sink in. My thought process is `what do I need to do to be the best driver over the next nine?’ I'm going to focus on the next nine, and I know everybody on my team is going to do that.

“It's great to get the points lead, but we've got so much racing left. It would be a disservice to today's accomplishments to allow our focus to get off of tomorrow's workload.”

Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

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