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NASCAR

Brad Keselowski brings home Penske Racing’s first Championship

Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

Brad Keselowski started the last race of the season with a 20 point lead in the NASCAR standings over Jimmie Johnson.  Brad had a commanding lead but not one that couldn’t be overcome by Jimmie if he was able to perform well and Brad was not.  It didn’t work out that way.

The week started out by the media trying to get Jimmie Johnson to play mind games with Brad Keselowski similar to what happened a few years ago with Denny Hamlin.  Jimmie didn’t bite and Brad wasn’t letting him in.

Jimmie said, “Yeah, you definitely want to plant a seed, but the thing that I know is regardless of the prodding or poking I can do, that moment is coming.  The aha moment comes for everybody that’s in that championship battle” 

It may have backfired on Jimmie and his team.  They were in a position to win the race on pit strategy and potentially the championship.  It appeared that they had the No. 2 Miller Lite team right where they wanted them.  Then they had their own “Aha moment”, a lug nut was left off on a pit stop requiring Jimmie to have to make a second pit stop and giving up any hope of the championship.  It didn’t matter much in the end as they had a gear break in the drive train ending their day.

Yeah, we were in position and putting the pressure on the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) like we needed to“ Jimmie added, “I said at the beginning of the week, 15th isn’t a lay‑up, and I certainly had him in position.  He made it really interesting here at the end of this thing.  It we could have not had the mistake on pitted road and then the gear failure at the end.

Brad Keselowski no longer needed to care about fuel millage and was able to pit an extra time for the tires and fuel necessary to insure he would make it to the end and win the Championship.  Brad finished the race 15th Winning the championship over Clint Bowyer by 34 points.  Jimmie was third 35 points back.

This is Brad’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in three short years of driving for Roger Penske.  “Just how far we’ve come, Penske Racing.  This team is phenomenal, and I’m just so fortunate to have them.” Brad said, “Everybody back in North Carolina and Morrisville that supports this team, I hope you’re listening.  None of this was possible without them.  I feel so lucky to have everyone here, just a dream come true to have a car like the Blue Deuce, everybody in the Miller Lite Dodge, and to have fast cars, to have a great team, this is what you dream of as a driver, and I’m just so very fortunate.

This is the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship for Penske Racing.  The closest they have ever gotten to a championship was in 1993 with Rusty Wallace. “Well, I’ll tell you, it’s at the top of the mark now.”  Roger Penske said “As I told you when Brad and I got together three years ago and we talked about a plan, we executed, but I want to thank all the people in our company, all our 40,000 employees that have helped us.  This race shop team is outstanding, with just the reliability of that car and engine and Dodge, I want to thank Dodge for what they’ve done and certainly Miller Lite and Shell-Pennzoil”

This championship is also the first championship for Dodge in since 1975.  Dodge will not be fielding NASCAR Sprint Cup cars next year but hopefully getting this championship will renew them and bring them back to the sport.

Although this is Brad and Paul Wolfe (Brad’s crew chief) first Sprint Cup championship it is not their first championship together.  They won the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship together.

Brian Berg Jr. is the Lead NASCAR writer for RantSports.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary. On Facebook at NASCAR News and Commentary. On Pinterest at NASCARNews .