Keselowski clinches Cup title
Brad Keselowski has won NASCAR’s premier championship, driving for legendary team owner Roger Penske and bringing the Sprint Cup home to Michigan for the first time.
Keselowski, from Rochester Hills, Mich., won the title when fellow contender Jimmie Johnson pulled out of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway because of a parts failure.
The championship is the first for longtime NASCAR owner Penske and the first time a Michigan-born driver has won NASCAR’s top prize.
“I’ve been going for the championship all my life,” Keselowski said.
Keselowski’s team owner has, too. Penske has had a celebrated run in auto racing. His IndyCar teams have won 15 Indianapolis 500s and 12 championships – but this marks his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title. He won the Nationwide title with Keselowski in 2010.
Keselowski was leading the points heading into the Sprint Cup finale. He only needed to finish 15th or better to clinch the championship. He finished the race 15th.
To be the best, Keselowski had to beat the best – Johnson. The pair traded the lead of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup five times, the last on Nov. 11 at Phoenix International Raceway where Keselowski finished sixth and Johnson, the victim of an accident, placed 32nd.
Keselowski’s 15th-place run Sunday was all it took to apply the finishing touches to a stellar championship season. Keselowski’s championship came in his 125th start, the fewest since Jeff Gordon captured his first of four titles in 1995 in 93 starts.
At age 28, Keselowski is the eighth-youngest competitor to win a first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Johnson, leading the race on strategy, pitted then suffered a pit road penalty, a result of a loose lugnut. But ultimately, issues with the rear-end gear and driveshaft ended Johnson’s bid for a sixth championship.
“Pretty heartbreaking,” Johnson said moments after Keselowski crossed the finish line to clinch the title. “We were doing what we needed to do, certainly in a position to put a lot of pressure on the 2 car. But that’s racing.”
All Keselowski had to do was stay out of trouble over the next and final 40 laps.
Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon won the race. Clint Bowyer, Gordon’s nemesis from last week’s race at Phoenix, not only finished second, but wound up finishing second in the final points standings, 39 points behind Keselowski.
Johnson finished the points third, 40 points behind.
It is Dodge’s first Cup championship since Richard Petty’s title in 1975. Dodge announced earlier this year that 2012 would be its last in NASCAR. Penske Racing is moving to Ford in 2013.