HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Travis Geisler, Penske Racing’s director of competition, probably said it best:
“You can’t give Roger Penske much that he doesn’t have.”
But a brash, upstart 28-year-old Michigan native did just that.
Brad Keselowski hasn’t been alive for as many years as Penske has fielded cars in NASCAR competition (29), but Sunday night in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway he delivered the biggest prize of all to the iconic car owner – a Sprint Cup Series championship.
It has been the one missing accomplishment from Penske’s impressive resume, which includes NASCAR and Indy car racing.
That Keselowski was able to win one in his third season driving for Penske bodes well for the future, too.
“I feel like the best is yet to come,” Keselowski said. “I really do.”
Can you blame him?
In his brief career, Keselowski has been criticized for his driving style, penalized by NASCAR for his comments and lauded for his ability to connect to fans through social media.
Through his cell phone, Keselowski has taken NASCAR fans to places they’ve never been.
Now, he’s done the same for his car owner.
“I think he’s going to be a multiple champion, and I hope that Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) and the team can continue to grow on the success we had this weekend and this year and we can go on and do it again,” Penske said.
Will this team bask in the glory of their shiny championship trophy?
“I can tell you this, Paul already said to me we’ve got to go to work Tuesday morning and get ready to go next year,” Penske said. “So, it doesn’t take long to have it sink in, and we’ve got to think about the future.”
Keselowski has a bright one.
In 125 career Cup starts, he has nine wins, 24 top-five and 43 top-10 finishes. He and his No. 2 Dodge team completed the 10-race Chase with an average finish of 6.3 – identical to that of last season’s champion, Tony Stewart.
In fact, although Keselowski had three fewer wins in the Chase than Stewart did last year (five), Stewart scored just three more points than Keselowski (403-400).
“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. “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.”
And his team is now among the elite in NASCAR.
To win this season’s championship, Keselowski had to fend off the challenge from Jimmie Johnson, a five-time champion. The two traded the points lead twice in the final three races.
“When you look at what they’ve been able to accomplish over the last whatever, 10 years say, they’re definitely the best at this game,” Wolfe said of Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.
“I think that even makes it more special for me to know that we went head-to-head with those guys all the way down to the last race.”
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