By Jordon Dodson
Entering the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, all Brad Keselowski had to do was finish 16th or better, no matter what Jimmie Johnson did. Johnson had to put all the marbles on the table for a shot at his sixth championship.
Keselowski went into Sunday with a twenty-point lead and just needed to have a solid day. But no one was expecting the day Johnson would experience.
Keselowski and Johnson ran in the top-ten for the first half of the race. Johnson eventually took the lead with pit strategy and by taking two tires. Keselowski ran around tenth but all that was meaningless as the race came to a close.
As the race came to a close and fuel strategy came into play, Keselowski stretched a fuel run to the point of running out of gas on lap 60 but fortunately, coasted far enough to make it to his pit box.
The mistake did not cost the No. 2 team, but it would be a mistake that did cost the 48 team a few laps later.
While making their final pit stop of the day, Johnson’s team missed a lugnut and had to make a second stop under green. Johnson cycled around to 25th position and one-lap down, but then it happened – the nail in the coffin for his championship hopes.
On lap 39, Johnson blew his engine. The team immediately took the car to the garage, officially taking the 48 team out of the championship.
Keselowski officially finished 15th in Sunday’s EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Johnson finished 36th. Johnson also finished third in points, behind Clint Bowyer, and 40 markers behind Keselowski in the standings.
Jeff Gordon won his first career race at Homestead.
Keselowski rode out the remaining laps and to bring home Penske Racing‘s first Sprint Cup championship and Brad Keselowski’s first Sprint Cup championship as well.
Roger Penske on winning his first Sprint Cup championship, “Top of the mark.”
Dodge, Penkse Racing’s manufacturer in 2012, also went out with a bang. Dodge is leaving NASCAR at the end of this season and will not be returning in 2013. This is Dodge’s first championship since 1979 with Richard Petty. This championship does help the manufactures’ chance of returning in the near future and everybody hopes that will be the case.
Brad Keselowski has now won his first Sprint Cup championship in only his third season in NASCAR’s top series. This is also the first time a crew chief (Paul Wolfe)/driver (Brad Keselowski) combination have both won a Nationwide and Sprint Cup championship.
So Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing win their first Sprint Cup championship in a season where many said the team was too young to accomplish the task – but they proved the naysayers wrong. This is Brad Keselowski and Penkse Racing’s second NASCAR championship after winning the Nationwide championship in 2010.
Let’s enjoy a new face at the top of the sport. Keselowski is certainly a breathe of fresh air.