And Brad Keselowski burst through the door.
With 15 of 267 laps remaining, Keselowski dove between Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick while they battled for the lead to claim the top spot for himself and opened the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win in Sunday’sMyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
With the victory, Keselowski automatically advances to Round 2 of the Chase regardless of his performance in the next two races.
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Jeff Gordon finished second, Kyle Larson finished third, Joey Logano was fourth and Kevin Harvick was fifth.
Kyle Busch, who started from the pole based on practice speeds when Friday’squalifying was rained out, got off to a strong start and led the first 28 laps of the race.
Gordon made his way around Busch to take the lead for the first time on Lap 29.
Jamie McMurray, also with a fast car, passed Gordon for the lead on Lap 40.
A round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 43. During the stops, Kurt Busch spun on pit road while making his pit stop.
When the cycle was completed on Lap 49, McMurray remained in the lead followed by Gordon and Kyle Busch.
Debris in Turn 2 brought out the first caution of the race on Lap 67. During pit stops Kasey Kahne was penalized by NASCAR for speeding on pit road and Harvick was forced to pit twice to fix a loose wheel. On the restart, Kyle Busch returned to the lead followed by Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.
Gordon returned to the lead on Lap 88.
Newman had problems with a left-rear tire on Lap 99 which brought out a caution for debris. During the caution Newman was also penalized for being too fast on pit road. On the restart on Lap 105, McMurray continued to lead followed by Logano and Gordon.
Three laps later, Keselowski – who restarted fifth – made his way into the lead for the first time on Lap 108.
A second round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 145. Once the cycle was completed on Lap 151, Harvick moved into the lead followed by Keselowski and Gordon.
The track safety barrier need a repair which brought out the third caution of the race on Lap 182. During pit stops, Keselowski was forced to make a second pit stop because of a loose wheel. On the restart on lap 186, Harvick remained out front followed by Gordon and Larson. Keselowski restarted in 17th.
Teams began a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 222. Once they were completed on Lap 229, Larson was in the lead followed by Harvick and Gordon.
On Lap 231, Carl Edwards had a left-rear tire failure while at about the same time the engine blew on Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford which brought the fourth caution of the race.
“We don’t have anything to hang our heads about,” Almirola said. “We’ll regroup and head to Loudon (N.H.).”
On the restart on Lap 238, Larson led the way followed by Harvick, Gordon, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Clint Bowyer hit the wall on Lap 245 to bring out the fifth caution of the race. Only a handful of lead-lap cars elected to pit. Larson remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 250 followed by Harvick and Gordon.
While Harvick and Larson battled for the lead on Lap 252, Keselowski powered between both of them to take the lead.
Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked on Lap 258 to bring out the sixth caution of the race. Only a handful of lead-lap cars pit. Keselowski remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 262 followed by Larson and Harvick.