Homestead, Fla. • Brad Keselowski is the young, cocksure, Twitter-friendly new face of NASCAR.
Keselowski, the driver who made a name for himself by posting on Twitter during a red flag stop in the Daytona 500, put his name on the Sprint Cup championship trophy Sunday with a 15th-place finish in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It means the world; it really does,” Keselowski said as he celebrated.
Keselowski’s victory gave Roger Penske, 75, the dominant team owner in the IndyCar Series for years with 15 Indianapolis 500 wins, his first Cup championship 40 years after he first began competing in NASCAR.
Keselowski brought a seemingly safe 20-point lead into the last race of the playoff and needed only to finish 15th or better to secure the title. But he still had to steel himself against the nerves that have rattled others in his place, that and the sight of the five-time champion Jimmie Johnson on his bumper for a stretch Sunday. Johnson was the only driver who could have caught Keselowski’s No. 2 Blue Deuce Dodge for the title.
But in the end, it was Johnson who relented, his race car pushed into the garage with 40 laps to go after smoke filled the cockpit. He did not return, finishing 36th in the race and third overall in the championship.
Jeff Gordon won the race, and Clint Bowyer, who was second, wound up second overall in points behind Keselowski. Bowyer never got close enough to deliver any retribution to Gordon, who deliberately wrecked Bowyer’s race car a week ago, touching off a melee between their trams. It was one of many dramas that never played out on the season’s final day.
At 28, Keselowski became only the third driver in 28 years to capture the title while still in his 20s. Kurt Busch was 26 when he won in 2004, and Gordon was in his 20s when he took the Cup in 1995, ’97 and ’98.
“It feels pretty good,” said Keselowski, who had already begun the celebration with a pitcher of his sponsor’s Miller Lite. “It feels really good.”
Sprint Cup standings
1. Keselowski 2,400 —
2. Bowyer 2,361 -39
3. Johnson 2,360 -40
4. Kahne 2,345 -55
5. Biffle 2,332 -68
6. Hamlin 2,329 -71
7. Kenseth 2,324 -76
8. Harvick 2,321 -79
9. Stewart 2,311 -89
10. Gordon 2,303 -97
11. Truex 2,299 -101
12. Earnhardt 2,245 -155