(WOMR file photo)
After last week’s race at Phoenix, where Jimmie Johnson’s bad luck and blown right front tire, put Brad Keselowski in the Sprint Cup points lead by 20 points. There were some NASCAR fans that thought “Blazingly Bad” Brad and his race team might crumble under the pressure that comes with the last race in the season, and the pressure of the Sprint Cup championship. However, those naysayers were greatly disappointed after the culmination of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Instead, it was five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, and his Hendrick Motorsports team, that succumbed to the pressures. It was late-race problems in the pits, and under the hood, that sent the #48 car off the pace, and then behind the wall. That allowed Keselowski to win the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.
Asked about beating Johnson, Keselowski said, “He’s the best.”
Perhaps, and not just not in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowski finished 15th, but that was still good enough to get the job done over Johnson, who DNF’d and slipped back one spot to third in the final point standings.
The championship did not come easily on the final day of the season. In fact, with less than 100 laps to go in the race, it appeared Johnson had set himself up for a race victory and a sixth-championship. He and his team put themselves in that position by using a late-race pit strategy that would have enabled Johnson to stop just one more time for fuel to Keselowski’s two scheduled stops.
Johnson’s bad luck worsened
But on lap 214 of the 267-lap event, the strategy blew up. Johnson brought the HMS Chevrolet to pit road and things did not go well during the stop. Johnson pulled away from his stall with a loose lug nut, NASCAR ordered Johnson to make another pit stop to correct the error.
The ultimate knife in the heart came just ten laps later. All hope faded when Johnson returned to pit road with a catastrophic engine problem. The #48 crew pushed the car to the garage, where it sat for the rest of the race.
Keselowski is only the third driver to win the Sprint Cup championship in just his third complete year in the series. The other two drivers to accomplish this fete is Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Jeff Gordon! Great company, I would say!
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.
For owner Roger 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.
So the long 38 week 2012 Sprint Cup season has come to a conclusion at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the coronation of a new Sprint Cup champion. The off-season has officially begun, and there will be more announcements of driver/crew chief changes that will most assuredly occur in the next few weeks.
However, it is only 98 days until the 2013 Daytona 500!
See you at the track!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!