More often than not, the team that starts out the Chase with a win often makes the case that they will be one of the ones to beat. When the checkered flag waved at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, that statement is definitely true.
After Jimmie Johnson fired the opening shots of the weekend, winning the pole and leading the most laps, there was one driver who still had a few bullets in the gun to use.
The only driver that had any shot of keeping up with Johnson was Brad Keselowski, and the two made a strong battle all race long to get the lead, then lose it. But, it was a move not on the track, but onto the track, that had the biggest impact and also the most controversy.
During the final round of pit stops, Johnson made his stop first, and about a lap later it was Keselowski. But, Keselowski came onto the track nearly in front of Johnson, and according to Johnson, kind of surprised him. Meanwhile, Keselowski spent the entire lap he came back onto the race track to get by Johnson, including running the apron on the front straightaway.
Johnson and team questioned whether Keselowski moved onto the track too early, but NASCAR made the ruling after looking at video that it was legal. At that point, Johnson began to play catch-up, but just couldn't do it.
Round one of the Chase goes to Keselowski, which also provides two writers with a huge boost as he was their choice for victory. At the same time, all but three writers finished in the top-10, but some had rather bad weeks, and went from the top of the standings to the bottom, and now must claw their way out of an early hole.
Here's a look at where the Pool standings sit after the first Chase race, the GEICO 400:
Christopher Leone (2053) Brad Keselowski WON (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2049) Kyle Busch finished 4th (3)
James Broomhead (2048) Tony Stewart finished 6th (3)
Kara Martin (2047) Brad Keselowski WON (3)
Rob Tiongson (2047) Clint Bowyer finished 10th (4)
Patti Rodisch (2046) Kyle Busch finished 4th (2)
Dustin Parks (2042) Tony Stewart finished 6th (1)
Misan Akuya (2042) Tony Stewart finished 6th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (2041) Kasey Kahne finished 3rd (1)
Ryan O'Hara (2038) Kevin Harvick finished 12th (2)
Kelly Crandall (2038) Matt Kenseth finished 18th (3)
Billy Fellin (2021) Jeff Gordon finished 35th (4)
Next Race: The Chase began on a high-banked, 1.5-mile speedway in America's Heartland. The second race of the championship hunt couldn't be more different. There's very little banking, less of a distance in the event, and only one groove.
At the same time, this is a familiar track in the Chase as up until last year, it was the first race in the final 10-race run.
Up next on the schedule, a return to the "Magic Mile" known as the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Writers, keep in mind that your picks must be different than they were for Chicagoland. Have them submitted by Thursday, September 20, at 10 p.m. ET.