Seldom do you find a sports champion that quotes Winston Churchill but Brad Keselowski isn’t from the traditional mold. The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion brings a different image to the motorsports world. Fans like it. He has more than 330,000 followers on Twitter.
He grew up in a racing family in nearby Rochester Hills. His father, Bob, was a racer. The race shop was his second home. He learned about cars and engines when other youngsters were playing stick-and-ball sports. At age 28, he’s achieved his dream. The driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger reached the pinnacle of his profession Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, emerging as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.
Keselowski made the Chase for the Sprint Cup field for the second consecutive year. The 2012 edition evolved into a battle between the newcomer and the veteran – Jimmie Johnson, a five-time champion. All other competitors had been mathematically eliminated by the time the series reached Miami-Homestead for Sunday’s season finale.
Keselowski claimed the title by a 39-point advantage but the 267-lap event contained its share of anxious moments for the championship contenders. In fact, at one point Johnson had turned the 20-point deficit he faced entering the event into a seven-point advantage when the No. 2 Dodge ended up off sequence in the pit cycle.
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 been an incredible run,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – SRT Brand and Motorsports. “Roger and I shook hands at the beginning of the year and said we wouldn’t let each other down. We delivered. Brad delivered. Roger and his team delivered. I think everybody dug in a little harder knowing we wouldn’t be together next year. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a fairytale story. My team is going to miss this sport. It’s been their life blood for the last 12 years. They eat, sleep and dream this stuff. That’s the Dodge way. It’s always been the Dodge way. There’s no better way to go out than this.
It was the fifth Sprint Cup title for Dodge but first since Richard Petty won in 1975.
“Congratulations to Brad, Roger, Penske Racing and all the Dodge team members who worked tirelessly towards claiming the ultimate NASCAR prize – the Sprint Cup,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO – Dodge. “Racing and the competitive spirit is a key part of the heritage of Dodge. We’re very proud to bring the Championship back home to all of our fans for the first time since 1975 when legendary driver Richard Petty was behind the wheel for back-to-back Dodge victories.
“This victory has been several years in the making, as a result of countless hours by many talented people who understood the grit and determination needed to always find a way. That’s the Dodge way.”
The new champion wasted no time passing on credit to his team. “I’ve got the best team in racing and I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it,” he said. “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 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.
Penske’s previous best finish in the standings came in 1993 when NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace finished second.
“It's a special position to be in as an owner,” said Penske of the championship. Obviously, as I've said before, it's a goal that I wanted to achieve, and I tried hard. We were close in ’93 with Rusty (Wallace) finishing second and then third in ’94. That's a long time ago. The competition has gotten tougher, and I think that any one weekend there's 10 or 15 cars that can win. We’ve built a special team here, and I'm proud to be the leader,”
Dodge announced in August that it would withdraw from NASCAR at the conclusion of the season. The decision came in part due to Penske Racing announcing in March that it would end the 10-year partnership and move to Ford in 2013.