A speedy final green-flag pit stop propelled Martin Truex Jr. to victory at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday.
Truex, trailing Chase Elliott by a second with 10 laps to go, made the most of a restart on Lap 268 and overtook the rookie driver to win the 270-lap Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 - the first leg of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.
With the win, Truex's second in three races, the Furniture Row Racing driver secured his place in the next round of NASCAR's playoffs.
Joey Logano finished second while Elliott, non-Chase competitor Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Last year's race winner Denny Hamlin finished sixth.
Chase drivers Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick face elimination after poor races, finishing 18th and 20th, respectively.
Jimmie Johnson led all drivers for a race-high 118 laps but fell to 12th after he was hit with a penalty for speeding on the pit road late in the race.