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2012:

Keselowski Wears the Crown

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By Ben White

Driving the No. 2 Team Penske Dodge, Brad Keselowski recorded five wins and 23 top-10 finishes in 36 races to secure the first NASCAR Cup Series title for himself and iconic team owner Roger Penske.

A second-generation racer, Keselowski began driving on the short tracks near his hometown of Rochester Hills, Michigan. He then followed his father, Bob, into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004.

Keselowski made his Xfinity Series debut in 2006 and his first Cup Series start came two years later. Following stints with JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports, he joined Team Penske for the 2010 season.

The combination of team owner Penske, crew chief Paul Wolfe and Keselowski produced three wins during the 2011 season.

The 2012 campaign got off to a rocky start, however, as Keselowski fought through a difficult stretch of double-digit finishes before getting his championship quest on track.

A March 18 win at Bristol helped heal the wounds generated by 32nd-place finishes at Daytona and Las Vegas, but a 36th-place effort at Texas left him deep in the standings.

Morale was fading and Keselowski had to rally his No. 2 team back to winning form. 

A win on May 6 at Talladega Superspeedway and top-10 finishes over the next six weeks kept Keselowski in the top 10. A June 30 victory at Kentucky and eight more top-10 results through the Sept. 8 race at Richmond elevated him to second in the title chase.

With his win at Chicago the next week, Keselowski moved into the points lead. A final win at Dover two weeks later and five top-10 efforts during the final seven races placed Keselowski 39 points ahead of Clint Bowyer in the final standings.

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 16: Clint Bowyer drives the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)

2012

PRESIDENT: BARACK OBAMA

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: THE AVENGERS

MOVIES TO WATCH: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES AND THE HUNGER GAMES

NO. 1 SONG: “SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW” BY GOTYE FEATURING KIMBRA

GALLON OF GAS: $3.60

POP CULTURE: “THE WALKING DEAD” TELEVISION SERIES WAS A TREMENDOUS SUCCESS AS IT BECAME THE MOST-WATCHED DRAMA-SERIES IN BASIC CABLE HISTORY.

BEST DRIVER

California native Jimmie Johnson, driving the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, recorded five wins, 24 top-10 finishes and two pole positions in 36 starts during the 2012 season. Johnson’s statistics were very similar to those accumulated by champion Brad Keselowski, but six DNFs derailed Johnson’s hopes for a sixth title. He ended up third, one point behind runner-up Clint Bowyer. Keselowski, Johnson and Denny Hamlin each went to Victory Lane five times.

BEST RACE

On Aug. 12, Australian Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, led only eight laps on his way to victory at Watkins Glen International, holding off Brad Keselowski to win by .571 seconds. Kyle Busch had the lead at the white flag but was running out of gas. He spun after being tapped by Keselowski, and Ambrose then passed Keselowski after he had a problem with two corners remaining.

TOP CARS

Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Miller Dodge won five times while posting 23 top-10 results in 36 starts.

Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing 5-Hour Energy Toyota notched three victories with 23 top-10 finishes.

2012 Season Recap

DATE | LOCATION | WINNER

Feb. 27 | Daytona International Speedway | Matt Kenseth

March 4 | Phoenix Raceway | Denny Hamlin

March 11 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Tony Stewart

March 18 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Brad Keselowski

March 25 | Auto Club Speedway | Tony Stewart

April 1 | Martinsville Speedway | Ryan Newman

April 14 | Texas Motor Speedway | Greg Biffle

April 22 | Kansas Speedway | Denny Hamlin

April 28 | Richmond Raceway | Kyle Busch

May 6 | Talladega Superspeedway | Brad Keselowski

May 12 | Darlington Raceway | Jimmie Johnson

May 27 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Kasey Kahne

June 3 | Dover Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson

June 10 | Pocono Raceway | Joey Logano

June 17 | Michigan International Speedway | Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 

June 24 | Sonoma Raceway | Clint Bowyer

June 30 | Kentucky Motor Speedway | Brad Keselowski

July 7 | Daytona International Speedway | Tony Stewart 

July 15 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Kasey Kahne

July 29 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson

Aug. 5 | Pocono Raceway | Jeff Gordon

Aug. 12 | Watkins Glen International | Marcos Ambrose

Aug. 19 | Michigan International Speedway | Greg Biffle

Aug. 25 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Denny Hamlin

Sept. 2 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Denny Hamlin

Sept. 8 | Richmond Raceway | Clint Bowyer

Sept. 16 | Chicago land Speedway | Brad Keselowski

Sept. 23 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Denny Hamlin

Sept. 30 | Dover Motor Speedway | Brad Keselowski

Oct. 7 | Talladega Superspeedway | Matt Kenseth

Oct. 13 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Clint Bowyer

Oct. 21 | Kansas Speedway | Matt Kenseth

Oct. 28 | Martinsville Speedway | Jimmie Johnson

Nov. 4 | Texas Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson

Nov. 11 | Phoenix Raceway | Kevin Harvick

Nov. 18 | Homestead-Miami Speedway | Jeff Gordon

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