NASCAR photo of Brad KeselowskiEnlarge Photo
Johnson clearly had the fastest car for much of the race, as the Hendrick Motorsports driver had no problems in gapping the field. A late pit stop, however, gave the lead to Keselowski, who stretched it to some three seconds by the end of the race. At the finish line, the order was Keselowski, followed by Johnson and his Hendrick teammate, Kasey Kahne.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Denny Hamlin had the lead in the Chase for the Championship points. While Hamlin ran mid-pack most of the race, a pit error caused the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to run short of fuel on the final lap, putting him in 16th place at the end of the day.
Regrowing facial hair wasn’t the right answer for Jeff Gordon, as a stuck throttle in the 24 car caused the most serious crash of the night. Gordon was uninjured in the incident, but the Hendrick Motorsport crew needed time to get the damaged race car back into competition, and Gordon rejoined the race with just nine laps remaining.
Heading into next weekend’s Sylvania 300 in Loudon, New Hampshire, Keselowski is the new Chase for the Championship leader with 2,056 points, followed by Jimmie Johnson (2,053) and Tony Stewart (2,048). Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer are in a three-way tie for fourth place with 2,041 points each.
Rounding out the cup contenders are Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,039), Greg Biffle (2,037), Martin Truex Jr. (2,035), Kevin Harvick (2,032), Matt Kenseth (2,030) and Jeff Gordon (2,009). While Gordon isn’t out of contention yet, this much is clear: his retro mustache needs to bring him a pair of victories in the nine races remaining.