Brad Keselowski captured his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title on Sunday.The title came in his third full season, though he had competed in parts of two seasons before he began driving the No. 2 Dodge at Penske Racing.
In 2010, Keselowski won the NASCAR Nationwide Series title. That same year he struggled at the Sprint Cup level producing just two finishes inside the top ten.
Whether you like him or not you can not deny that Keselowski got better. And fast. A year after being nothing more than an also ran he went on an impressive run to make the 2011 Sprint Cup Series Chase. It was not meant to be though as six of Keselowski’s final ten finishes were outside the top-ten.
Keselowski got off to a rough start this year. It was not until the seventh race at Kansas that things began to turn around. Ten races later he had crept into the top ten. Over the next seven races he finished tenth or better, including a win at Kentucky.
When the Chase started at Chicagoland he sent out a warning, a victory. Two weeks later he found victory lane again at Dover. Keselowski had established himself as a contender. Over the seasons final ten races his worst finish was 11th at Charlotte.
His biggest competition came from Jimmie Johnson. Johnson also won twice during the Chase but could not avoid a mulligan finish. Still Johnson found himself in control going into Phoenix,until Johnson uncharacteristically over drove his car. The result was a busted tire and a collision into the wall. It left him firmly out.
Keselowski found himself in an unfamiliar position at the start of Sunday’s race at Homestead. A normally aggressive driver, Keselowski had to let up and allow others to drive around him at times. It was not the worst thing for Keselowski. For the few spots he had loss, Johnson was not making any ground up on him. Johnson got around Keselowski on the first round of pit-stops.
Keselowski worked back around Johnson later Johnson got back around Keselowski. Still Keselowski was playing it safe. Nothing short of a catastrophic wreck or parts failure was going to cost him his first Sprint Cup title.
Keselowski ran out of gas with 60 laps to go, which put Johnson in the points lead. It was only a few laps later that Johnson had to pit and a mistake on pit road cost him the lead. Johnson drove off with a missing lug nut – which made the 48 team have to pit again, subsequently putting him a lap down.
And then it happened. Johnson had a rear gear break with 40 laps to go. The #48 team headed to the garage.
Keselowski only had to finish the race to win his first championship, and he did just that, finishing in 15th position. The win is Roger Penske’s first championship as an owner in the Sprint Cup Series and Dodge’s first since 1975