Brad Keselowski wins the NASCAR Chase for the Cup

Brad Keselowski wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship

November 19, 2012 , HOMESTEAD, Fla. –Brad Keselowski is the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

The driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger finished 15th in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch the 2012 title. It’s the first for Roger Penske and Penske Racing in NASCAR’s premier series, a quest which started in 1972 and 12 years before Keselowski was born. For Dodge, it was the fifth title but first since 1975 (Richard Petty).

Keselowski’s championship comes in his third full season of competition in NASCAR’s premier series. The Rochester Hills native needed 125 starts to win the title, the fewest starts since Jeff Gordon in 1995 (93). In the 10-race Chase, he had two wins, three top-five and eight top-10 finishes. For the year, the ledger reads five wins along with 13 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes.

“I’ve got the best team in racing and I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it,” said Keselowski. “They made incredible sacrifices and I’m just so fortunate to have them around me. I couldn’t do it without the support of everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge.”

Keselowski ended up winning the title by a 39-point margin but the number is deceiving. Throughout the Chase, he went toe-to-toe with the dominant force in the series in recent years – five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. In fact, at one point in Sunday’s race Johnson had turned the 20-point deficit he faced entering the event into a seven-point advantage.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe called for a pit stop for fuel on lap 206. It’sturned out to be a critical call as the “Blue Deuce” sputtered onto pit road, out of fuel. When he returned to the track, it was essential the green-flag pit cycle run its course. It did and Keselowski was back in a comfort zone.

Johnson’s championship hopes began to unravel just a few laps later. During his green-flag stop, a missing lug nut on the left rear forced a pass-through penalty which put the No. 48 a lap down. The knockout blow came on Lap 224 when the No. 48 retired with mechanical problems (driveline). He finished 36th.

From there, Wolfe and the No. 2 Dodge team played it safe, taking on four tires during the final pit stop. Keselowski finished 15th.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment for everyone,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports. “Obviously this project wasn’t one that started yesterday. A lot of talented people have spent countless hours to make this championship possible. That’s the Dodge way. It’s always been the Dodge way.”

Keselowski is the second driver in NASCAR history to win both the Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series championships. He won the Nationwide title in a Dodge Challenger in 2010. The other driver was Bobby Labonte.

It was probably destiny that Keselowski won both championships in a Dodge. His father, Bob, was a long-time Dodge/RAM competitor and was quick to show his loyalty during the victory celebration by saying “winning the championship in a Dodge is icing on the cake.”

Penske has been fielding cars in NASCAR since 1972. His previous best finish in the standings came in 1993 when NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace finished second.

“I want to thank Dodge for what they’ve done and certainly Miller Lite and Shell/Pennzoil,” said Penske. “I just can’t take my hat off enough to all the great guys on our team from Brad, Paul, Travis Geisler (Director of Competition) and when you think about Mike Nelson (Vice President of Operations) and all those guys who build these great engines – not one failure all year in that Dodge engine. This win goes to all the servicemen around the world who have done so much to keep us safe and secure. For me, it’s just a double-win.”

The championship has special meaning for Keselowski after the torrid 10-race Chase with Johnson, the five-time champion. “He’s the best,” said Keselowski. “He proved it here today. He was going to win this damn race. I know that. We were not as fast as we wanted to be and we’d be the first to admit that but my guys never gave up. We kept working and at the end we were back up enough to where it wouldn’t have mattered if he won. My guys did a great job all year long and especially in the Chase. I’m lucky to have them.”

Sam Hornish Jr. ran in the top 10 much of the day in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger. Hornish had to make an extra pit stop late in the race for fuel and finished 22nd.

“I wanted to finish a lot better than 22nd but I didn’t have any false hopes that we were going to win today,” said Hornish. “Our car wasn’t good enough to do that but I was very happy that we were good enough to run in the top 10 most of the day.

“I had a good feeling after the first race in the Chase when Brad was able to win. I’m really happy for Brad. I’m really happy for Roger and Dodge especially for letting me go out on a high note. Wish we could have done a little bit better.”

Jeff Gordon took the win with Clint Bowyer second. Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five.

Race Results

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Ford 400

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012

1. Jeff Gordon*

2. Clint Bowyer*

3. Ryan Newman

4. Kyle Busch

5. Greg Biffle*

6. Martin Truex Jr.*

7. Aric Almirola

8. Kevin Harvick*

9. Kurt Busch

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.*

15. BRAD KESELOWSKI*

22. SAM HORNISH JR

* Chase Drivers

(Other Chase Drivers)

17. Tony Stewart

18. Matt Kenseth

21. Kasey Kahne

24. Denny Hamlin

36. Jimmie Johnson

Final Chase for the Sprint Cup Standings

(After 36 of 36 Races)

1. Brad Keselowski 2400

2. Clint Bowyer -39

3. Jimmie Johnson -40

4. Kasey Kahne -55

5. Greg Biffle -68

6. Denny Hamlin -71

7. Matt Kenseth -76

8. Kevin Harvick -79

9. Tony Stewart -89

10. Jeff Gordon -97

11. Martin Truex Jr. -101

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -155

Advertisements