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Keselowski too strong for Johnson at Chicago

"He did cut up early. It did impede my progress, I had to check up and wasn't sure where things were going," insisted Johnson. "At the time it messed me up."

The NASCAR officials reviewed the video of the incident - and concluded that Keselowski had done nothing against the rules. No penalty would be forthcoming, so Johnson was left once again staring at the back of the Penske car and this time it had come at a critical moment: if the same situation repeated itself form earlier in the race, Johnson was going to have a real problem getting back around Keselowski for position.

Keselowski wasn't in the lead at this point, as it took until lap 242 before the final cars dived into pit lane and Keselowski was promoted to the top. That wasn't good news for Johnson, as that meant Keselowski also now had the best of the clear air up front, although slow lapped traffic minimised that edge somewhat and meant Keselowski had to stay sharp to avoid getting hung up anywhere.

But 'Special K' wasn't making any mistakes, and was calmly and methodically working the advantage he'd got from the pit exit manoeuvre to start pulling away from Johnson. As the final laps played it it was clear that the #48 had nothing in reserve and could only watch the leader recede further into the distance: by the time the chequered flag came out, Keselowski had a three second edge over Johnson and cruised over the line to take his fourth win of the season and first blood in the 2012 Chase.

By the time he spoke with reporters after the race, Johnson's initial anger over the pit exit blending had subsided, and he was realistic to admit that the better can had won: "I don't think it played an outcome in the race," he admitted. "The way he made quick work in traffic and stretched it out on me, I'm not sure I would have held him off.

Keselowski didn't see quite what the fuss was about his pit lane exit move. "There is no enforced line like you see in other sports, and that's not a bad thing," he pointed out. "That's just one more thing to monitor during the race.

"It's certainly a - I don't want to say a gentlemen's agreement - it's a policy of merging down the backstretch, off of turn 2, I think it said specifically in the driver's meeting, and I feel like that's what we did," he added. "You can make rules that count it down to the inches and just make it a pain in the [neck] for everybody that participates in the sport, or you can just have a rule like we do. And I felt like I was inside those guidelines."

NASCAR had agreed with him - something that you can be sure Johnson, the Hendrick team and indeed everyone else on pit road will note down for future reference and used - and Keselowski was celebrating in victory lane, along with car owner Roger Penske who had flown in from Fontana, California overnight following his organisation's crushing disappointment to narrowly fail to secure the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with Will Power.

"A great weekend is what I'm thinking now," said Penske of how he felt on Sunday afternoon, standing in NASCAR victory lane less than 24 hours after the Fontana let-down. He was particularly happy to have bested Hendrick Motorsports' Johnson and Kahne in such a close on-track fight: "They're the gold standard, and we want to beat them," he said.

But Keselowski was quick to manage expectations and not let everyone get carried away with this early success. "We might have won the round, but we didn't by any means knock 'em out," he warned. "We're feeling good about today, but [we] know that we have a lot of work to do."




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet and Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Farmland Ford, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 16, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, heads across the star/finish line to take the chequered flag and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 16, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, celebrates with his crew in victory lane after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 16, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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