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Posted on Mon. Nov. 19, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

Keselowski claims Sprint Cup title

1st championship in NASCAR for Penske Racing

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The Chase

Top 12 points

1. B.Keselowski…2,400

2. C.Bowyer…-39

3. J.Johnson…-40

4. K.Kahne…-55

5. G.Biffle…-68

6. D.Hamlin…-71

7. M.Kenseth…-76

8. K.Harvick…-79

9. T.Stewart…-89

10. J.Gordon…-97

11. M.Truex Jr.…-101

12. D.Earnhardt Jr.…-155

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Here’s a tweet for Brad Keselowski: NASCAR champion.

Roger Penske must like the sound of that, too.

The kid who stole the show at the season-opening Daytona 500 ended the year under the biggest spotlight of them all Sunday, beating five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to deliver the first Sprint Cup championship to Penske Racing.

His first act as champion? Sending a tweet, of course, from inside his car: “We did it!” with a picture of the celebration waiting for him.

“Always, throughout my whole life I’ve been told I’m not big enough, not fast enough, not strong enough and I don’t have what it takes,” Keselowski said from the championship stage. “I’ve used that as a chip on my shoulder to carry me through my whole career. It took until this year for me to realize that that was right, man, they were right.

“I’m not big enough, fast enough, strong enough. No person is. Only a team can do that.”

So, with the Penske organization behind him, he delivered a trophy that had eluded “The Captain” since his 1972 NASCAR debut. Although his motorsports organization is considered the gold standard of open-wheel racing – 15 Indianapolis 500 wins – and his empire has made Penske one of the most successful businessmen in America, his NASCAR team has always been just average.

Then came Keselowski, the blue-collar, Twitter-loving, Michigan native who visited Penske in 2008 convinced the NASCAR team could win, too.

Three years later, they hoisted the Sprint Cup trophy together at Homestead-Miami Speedway following Keselowski’s 15th-place finish Sunday night.

“It’s all about the people in our organization and obviously Brad coming on our board three years ago, and we set a plan and we stuck to it,” the 75-year-old Penske said. “To win this championship is amazing.”

Keselowski needed 125 starts to win his first championship, the fewest starts since four-time champion Jeff Gordon won his first title in 93 starts in 1995. Keselowski also won a second-tier Nationwide title in 2010, his first season with Penske and the owner’s first official NASCAR championship.

“He deserves this probably as much as anybody else, if not more because of what he’s done for motor racing in general, NASCAR, his dedication to all forms of race cars is probably more than anybody else in the history of auto racing,” Ryan Newman said. “I know this is probably one of the sweetest moments in his racing career.”

Keselowski started the race up 20 points on Johnson, who blew a tire and crashed last week at Phoenix to give Keselowski a nice cushion and needing only to finish 15th or higher in the finale to wrap up his first championship. But the Penske team took nothing for granted – not after Will Power crashed in the IndyCar finale to blow a 17-point lead and lose the championship.

And this one got tight, too, especially when Keselowski ran out of gas on pit road during green flag pit stops. It put him a lap down with Johnson leading, and Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe frantically tried to figure out how dire the situation had become.

“I know the scenario, and it’s not good,” Keselowski said.

But minutes later, Johnson went to pit road for his own stop and pulled away with a missing lug nut. NASCAR flagged the Hendrick Motorsports team and Johnson was forced back to pit road for another stop. The Penske team was unsure if Keselowski wanted to know what was going on with Johnson.

“I’ve got a big-picture story if you want to hear it,” a team member radioed, then informed Keselowski that Johnson had to pit again.

“Ten-four. Thank you for telling me. We’re back in the game. I got it,” he said.

It got worse for Johnson from there. He broke a rear end gear in his Chevrolet and went to the garage with 40 laps to go, essentially clinching the championship for Keselowski.

“It all unraveled pretty quick,” Johnson conceded.

No longer needing to save fuel, and no longer needing to play it conservatively, he waived off Wolfe’s playbook.

“If he’s in the garage, let’s race,” Keselowski said.


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