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Keselowski, Penske & Dodge: National Champions

by Bill Cawthon on

The long wait is over: Brad Keselowski drove his Dodge Charger R/T to the biggest prize in American stock car racing: the 2012 Sprint Cup.

“I’ve got the best team in racing and I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it,” said Keselowski. “They made incredible sacrifices and I’m just so fortunate to have them around me. I couldn’t do it without the support of everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge.”

Keselowski’s been waiting 28 years for his first Sprint Cup. Dodge has been waiting since 1975, when Richard Petty brought home the Winston Cup. But Roger Penske has been waiting the longest: Penske got into NASCAR in 1972 and, until today, had never won the sport’s top prize. It was the longest streak among current NASCAR owners. It came just three seasons after winning his first NASCAR championship, the Nationwide Series championship that Keselowski delivered in 2010. Keselowski and Bobby Labonte are the only NASCAR drivers to win both championships.

“I want to thank Dodge for what they’ve done and certainly Miller Lite and Shell/Pennzoil,” said Penske. “I just can’t take my hat off enough to all the great guys on our team from Brad, Paul Wolfe (crew chief), Travis Geisler (Director of Competition) and when you think about Mike Nelson (Vice President of Operations) and all those guys who build these great engines – not one failure all year in that Dodge engine. This win goes to all the servicemen around the world who have done so much to keep us safe and secure. For me, it’s just a double-win.”

What makes it even more special is that there was just one Dodge in contention for the Sprint Cup. Sam Hornish Jr. was competing in the Nationwide Series so he was ineligible.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment for everyone,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports. “Obviously this project wasn’t one that started yesterday. A lot of talented people have spent countless hours to make this championship possible. That’s the Dodge way. It’s always been the Dodge way.”

Keselowski’s main rival for the Cup, Jimmie Johnson, raced the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet as hard as he could, but the Chevy went out with a rear-end problem on Lap 225 and Johnson ended his season literally in the pits.

Keselowski’s 15th-place finish in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoosThe 15th-place finish for the Blue Deuce was all it took. Originally separated by a handful of points, Johnson’s mishap at Phoenix tilted the tables heavily in Keselowski’s favor. Johnson needed to win Sunday’s race with Keselowki finishing 17th or worse for Johnson to take the title.

Almost adding insult to injury, Clint Boyer finished second in the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, knocking Johnson out of the No. 2 spot in the Sprint Cup standings by one point.

Jeff Gordon took the win in the No. 24 DuPont 20 Years ‘Celebratory’ Chevrolet.

Sam Hornish Jr., at the wheel of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, waas a top-ten ocntender for most of the race but an extra pit stop late in the race cost him track postion and there weren’t enough laps left to make up the difference. He finished 22nd.

“I wanted to finish a lot better than 22nd but I didn’t have any false hopes that we were going to win today,” said Hornish. “Our car wasn’t good enough to do that but I was very happy that we were good enough to run in the top 10 most of the day.

“I had a good feeling after the first race in the Chase when Brad was able to win. I’m really happy for Brad. I’m really happy for Roger and Dodge especially for letting me go out on a high note. Wish we could have done a little bit better.”

The victory is bittersweet for Chrysler, Dodge and SRT fans as Sunday’s race was the final NASCAR event for Dodge and SRT. With the defection of Penske to Ford, Chrysler opted out of participation in the 2013 NASCAR season, even though there was a good-looking Charger ready to compete.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES RESULTS: FORD ECOBOOST 400
FINISH DRIVER CAR SPONSOR BRAND STATUS
1 Jeff Gordon 24 DuPont 20 Years Chevrolet Running
2 Clint Bowyer 15 5-hour Energy Toyota Running
3 Ryan Newman 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Running
4 Kyle Busch 18 M&M’s Toyota Running
5 Greg Biffle 16 3M/SP Richards Ford Running
6 Martin Truex Jr. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Running
7 Aric Almirola 43 Smithfield Ford Running
8 Kevin Harvick 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Running
9 Kurt Busch 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet Running
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 88 National Guard/Diet Mtn. Dew Chevrolet Running
11 Paul Menard 27 Menards/Duracell Chevrolet Running
12 Carl Edwards 99 Fastenal Ford Running
13 Marcos Ambrose 9 Black & Decker Ford Running
14 Joey Logano 20 The Home Depot/redbeacon.com Toyota Running
15 Brad Keselowski* 2 Miller Lite Dodge Running
16 Mark Martin 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Running
17 Tony Stewart 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Running
18 Matt Kenseth 17 Best Buy Ford Running
19 Jeff Burton 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Running
20 Jamie McMurray 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet Running
21 Kasey Kahne 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet Running
22 Sam Hornish Jr. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Running
23 Trevor Bayne 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford Running
24 Denny Hamlin 11 FedEx Express Toyota Running
25 Bobby Labonte 47 Clorox Toyota Running
26 Travis Kvapil 93 Burger King Toyota Running
27 Landon Cassill 83 Burger King Toyota Running
28 Juan Montoya 42 Target Chevrolet Running
29 Casey Mears 13 GEICO Ford Running
30 Regan Smith 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet Running
31 David Ragan 34 CertainTeed/31-W Insulation Ford Running
32 Dave Blaney 36 Florida Lottery Chevrolet Running
33 David Gilliland 38 Long John Silver’s Ford Running
34 David Reutimann 10 TMone.com Chevrolet Running
35 J.J. Yeley 37 C&C Audio Video & Appliance, Inc. Chevrolet Running
36 Jimmie Johnson 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet In Pit
37 Ken Schrader 32 Federated Auto Parts Ford Out of Race
38 David Stremme 30 Swan Racing Toyota Out of Race
39 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 6 Fifth Third Bank Ford In Pit
40 Josh Wise 26 MDS Transport Ford In Pit
41 Michael McDowell 98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford In Pit
42 Scott Riggs 23 North Texas Pipe Chevrolet In Pit
43 Mike Bliss 119 Plinker Tactical Toyota Out of Race
*National Champion

SPRINT CUP FINAL STANDINGS
RANK DRIVER POINTS DEFICIT
1 Brad Keselowski 2400
2 Clint Bowyer 2361 -39
3 Jimmie Johnson 2360 -40
4 Kasey Kahne 2345 -55
5 Greg Biffle 2334 -66
6 Denny Hamlin 2329 -71
7 Matt Kenseth 2324 -76
8 Kevin Harvick 2321 -79
9 Tony Stewart 2311 -89
10 Jeff Gordon 2303 -97
11 Martin Truex Jr. 2299 -101
12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2245 -155

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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