Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon lead Chase opener at halfway point


JOLIET, Ill. – With 134 of the scheduled 267 laps complete, Brad Keselowski leads the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski is seeking his second win at the 1.5-mile track in three races. His win there in 2012 helped Keselowski not only kick off the Chase the right way, he also went on to win the championship nine races later.

Jeff Gordon is running second, followed by Kevin Harvick, who has rebounded from a pit road issue on Lap 69.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is up to fourth, while pole-sitter Kyle Busch is fifth.

Sixth through 10th are Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano.

Busch led the first 28 laps before falling back to third place. Jeff Gordon assumed the lead at that point, with Jamie McMurray a close second.

After getting close to Gordon, McMurray took over the front position on Lap 40. His lead was short-lived, however, as pit stops began two laps later.

McMurray pitted on Lap 44, yielding the lead to 2012 Chicago race winner Brad Keselowski.

At the same time, Kurt Busch came onto pit road too hot and spun sideways, losing a considerable amount of time waiting for traffic to get past him before he was able to get moving again.

To add insult to injury, Kurt Busch was assessed a commitment line penalty.

McMurray regained the lead on Lap 48 and held it until Lap 68, when the first caution was called for debris in Turn 2.

Kevin Harvick came onto pit road on Lap 69, but had to return a lap later due to a loose wheel.

The irony of that was Harvick is using teammate Tony Stewart’s crew in this race and the rest of the Chase because of the number of errors Harvick’s crew made in the first 26 pre-Chase races.

As a result, Harvick dropped more than a dozen spots to 21st.

On the restart, Kyle Busch rolled right back to the front of the pack to regain the lead.

On Lap 75, McMurray hit the Turn 2 wall hard but sustained minor damage that did not appear to harm his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Jeff Gordon regained the lead from Busch on Lap 88.

Ryan Newman’s car hit some debris on Lap 99 that cut his left rear tire and slowed dramatically (perhaps in an attempt to reach pit road, which he wasn’t able to do), prompting several cars to take evasive action to avoid a pile-up.

Newman limped his car to pit road and received new left side rubber.

McMurray took just two right side tires to get track position and regained the lead when the green flag fell on Lap 104.

Another Chase combatant, AJ Allmendinger, suffered his own problems when the shifter lever on his car broke.

“My hand may be bloody by the end of the race, but I’ll get through,” Allmendinger said on his team radio.

McMurray’s lead lasted just three laps before Keselowski went to the front of the pack with Jeff Gordon following closely, dropping McMurray to third.

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