Keselowski surges between Harvick, Larson to win Chase opener at Chicagoland

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JOLIET, Ill. – Brad Keselowski isn’t a tailor, but he showed Sunday that he sure knows how to thread a needle.

While Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick were jousting for the lead, Keselowski slipped up in-between them and then sailed right through with 15 laps left to win Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400, the opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway.

“Kevin and Kyle were having a real battle and I was just waiting for an opportunity to strike and it happened,” Keselowski said. “When I made that pass, the fans were all on their feet.”

The move even surprised Keselowski, who started the race from the 25th position and quickly moved up to the front-running pack. When he was asked how he did it, Keselowski was as mystified as anyone else.

“I’m not really sure,” Keselowski said. “We had a great car. It was fast and these Fords have come together for a strong Chase run. It was a crazy day, I’m not sure if I really know what happened.

“I don’t know how it happened, but I’m glad I’m here.”

More: How the 16 drivers fared in Sunday’s Chase opener

It was Keselowski’s second win at Chicagoland to start the Chase in the last three seasons. His victory in the 2012 Chase opener paved the way to eventually winning the championship nine races later.

It also was Keselowski’s 15th career Sprint Cup win and his series-leading fifth win of the season (ties for career best, also set in 2012) and keeps him at the top of the Chase standings with nine races remaining.

Chase for the Sprint Cup standings after Race 1 of 10:

1 Brad Keselowski
2 Jeff Gordon -7 points
3 Joey Logano -10
4 Kevin Harvick -12
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -17
6 Denny Hamlin -18
7 Kyle Busch -18
8 Jimmie Johnson -18
9 Kurt Busch -20
10 Matt Kenseth -25
11 Kasey Kahne -25
12 Carl Edwards -29
13 Ryan Newman -30
14 AJ Allmendinger -34
15 Greg Biffle -38
16 Aric Almirola -52

Keselowski holds a thin seven-points lead in the Chase standings over Jeff Gordon, who finished second. Gordon had a great but clean battle with rookie Kyle Larson, who was hoping for his first Sprint Cup win but was forced to settle for a third-place finish.

“I was having a pretty good time watching Kyle and Kevin go at it in front of me,” Gordon said. “I thought for sure there was really going to be a wreck. I’m so proud of Kyle Larson.

“That’s a great way to get started, especially with restarts, to come out on second. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

As for Larson, he once again came so close, yet couldn’t quite hold on for his coveted first career Sprint Cup win. He took a bit of consolation when Gordon came over and congratulated him for a strong race.

“He just was giving me some advice and he was pretty proud of me,” Larson told ESPN. “Man, I was so close. I didn’t need that caution there. I was just cruising up front there. … We just didn’t have enough for Brad.”

Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate, Joey Logano, started 28th but finished fourth.

“Overall, just a tough day for our team, but we were able to fight up from where we started,” Logano said.

Harvick dropped back to finish fifth.

“It was a fun day,” Harvick said. “I’m proud of all my guys and it’s still a good start to the Chase.”

Denny Hamlin finished sixth, followed by Kyle and Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-10.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III