Brad Keselowski won the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship today at Homestead-Miami Speedway, earning owner Roger Penske’s first title in NASCAR’s premier series.
For owner Penske, the wait that began before Keselowski was born (1984) finally is over. Penske Racing, which entered the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 1972, ended the longest non-championship streak among current ownership. Penske’s best previous finish was second in 1993 with NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace.
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 finish in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway 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. Keselowski previously won the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series title, owner Penske’s first in NASCAR. He joins Bobby Labonte as the only drivers to win both a NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
After experiencing mechanical problems in two of the first three regular season races, Keselowski’s No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge won at Bristol Motor Speedway to begin a steady march toward the top 10. Backed by championship crew chief Paul Wolfe, Keselowski won three times during the regular season and entered the Chase seeded fourth.
A victory at the Chase-opening Chicagoland Speedway race, followed by another at Dover International Speedway, boosted Keselowski from contender to co-favorite with Johnson.
Dodge won its fifth series championship, and first since 1975 with Richard Petty.