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Cheers! Keselowski Wins 2012 Cup Championship

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, November 18 2012

Brad Keselowski takes a victory lap after winning the 2012 championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Those who thought that Brad Keselowski would crack in the season-ending Sprint Cup race and somehow blow the 20-point lead he possessed when the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway started on Sunday, whiffed.

Instead, it was five-time  champion Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team that succumbed to the pressures as late-race problems in the pits and under the hood sent the No. 48 car off the pace and then behind the wall – and Keselowski to the 2012 Cup championship.

Asked about beating Johnson, Keselowski said, “He’s the best.”

Perhaps. 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.

“Pretty heartbreaking,” Johnson, who watched the end of the race from the garages, said.

Keselowski gave owner Roger Penske his first NASCAR championship.

“For me, this is a life-long goal,” Penske, who has won 15 major open-wheel championships during his career as a car owner.

Jeff Gordon, Johnson’s teammate, won Sunday’s race.

Clint Bowyer, whose fleeting hopes to win the championship were ended last week after he was intentionally wrecked by Gordon in Phoenix, finished second and in doing so, move to second in points.

“Can you believe that?” Gordon said. “There was one restart where I had Joey (Logano) and maybe Aric (Almirola) and Clint right there surrounding me. That thing is going to work itself out some way through racing. I felt terrible how I went about it, and I still regret the way I went about it. But, I can’t take it back. But what we can do is look forward and race guys as hard and clean as we possibly can. This is a great way to get some positive things going because this year has been really up and down.”

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.

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, and NASCAR ordered another stop to correct the error.

Ten laps later, all hope faded when Johnson returned to pit road with a catastrophic engine problem. The No. 48 crew pushed the car to the garage, where it sat for the rest of the race.

“Definitely a disappointing finish to it all,” Johnson said.  “We were putting the pressure on like we need to.  We had strategy on our side.  Really in position to make it interesting there at the end.  A couple of little problems, well, one problem then a fatal issue got us at the end.  We are not sure why we lost the rear-end gear.  There is oil everywhere something happened back there.  Disappointing for sure, but I’ve got to reflect back on an amazing year and a year where we won a lot of races, led a lot of laps, so I need to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for their efforts.  Lowe’s and their support, my family, Chevrolet and my wife and daughter for their great support too.”

Keselowski said, “He proved here today he was going to win this damn race and I know that. We were not as as as we wanted to be, I’ll be the first to admit that, but my guys never gave up, we kept working and at the end we were capable of getting back up enough to where it wouldn’t have mattered if he had won which made me feel a lot better, but my guys did a great job all year long and I’m lucky to have them.”

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, November 18 2012
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