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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)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, races Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. With him are Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finished second, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, waves to fans after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, picks up the victory flag Sunday, May 3, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and his crew chief, Greg Ives, celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. Johnson finished second behind Earnhardt, Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Sponge Bob Square Pants Ford, wreck during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, watches crew members work on his car after an incident during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Earnhardt, Jr. is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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