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CUP: Bad Brad Leaps To Front Of Chase

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The guy who was supposed to win Sunday – Jimmie Johnson – didn’t. The guy who should have won – Kyle Busch – didn’t. The guy who might have won – Denny Hamlin – didn’t.

Instead it was the guy almost no one thought would win – Brad Keselowski.

And, along the way, Keselowski took the Chase point lead, sliding Johnson to second.

Keselowski had raced in only five Sprint Cup events at Dover International Speedway prior to Sunday’s AAA 400 and had scored no wins.

The breakthrough Sunday, in a fuel-mileage scramble, put Keselowski in first in points by five over Johnson.

Only six of the 12 Chasers finished in the top 10 Sunday, and several had difficult days, leaving much of the championship field in choppy waters three races in.

After Dover, only four drivers are in what might be classified as comfortable positions – Keselowski first, Johnson second (five back), Denny Hamlin third (16 back) and Clint Bowyer fourth (25 back).

From there, the numbers become imposing. Defending champion Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne are tied for fifth, 32 behind. Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed in seventh and is 39 back.

Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth all are at least 42 behind the leader – virtually a full race.

The only two Ford drivers in the Chase – Biffle and Kenseth – are in the final two points positions.

Kenseth had track-bar issues Sunday and finished 35th. He’s 72 points behind Keselowski.

Biffle finished 16th.

Gordon charged late and finished second to Keselowski but is 48 points out of first on the Chase list.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.