2012 brought the Sprint Cup Series many surprises but none of them may have been as big as the crowning of Brad Keselowski as its champion. Keselowski defi- nitely had the skill set to be the titleholder, but the big question mark was whether or not his Penske Racing team could stand up to the pressure that was sure to come from Hendrick Motorsports once the Chase got underway.
Keselowski didn’t have a fourteam operation like Jimmie Johnson had with HMS to draw from when the final 10 races of the season began to go off the board. He was definitely the so-called “dark horse” even though he had put together a remarkable season, but he was still driving for a twocar deal whose second team had undergone a driver change in the middle of the season. Complicating matters more was that during the middle of the year Penske’s manufacturer Dodge had announced that it would be leaving the sport at the end of the season.
Even with all of that going against both him and his team, Keselowski put it all behind him and did what every champion has done before him and that was to drive his way to the title. He and his team were oblivious to the pressure of a championship chase as they were able to get it done both while leading the points and while trailing. The result was a new fresh face sitting at the head table in Las Vegas.
While Keselowski was on his way to the title, many in the sport were trying to get themselves in a position to compete for a seat at the head table in 2013. Anytime a move is made in the sport by a driver, crew chief or sponsor, there is usually going to be a chain reaction felt by several teams.
When Matt Kenseth announced early in the year that he would not return to Roush-Fenway Racing in 2013, he suddenly became the hottest free agent in the garage area. Joe Gibbs Racing was always considered his future home, but it took several months before it was made official that he would be taking over Joey Logano’s ride. Penske wasted very little time in bringing in Logano to become Keselowski’s new teammate and ultimately Roush was able to announce that it would be moving up Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to take over Kenseth’s vacant seat.
The season will also be forever remembered as having one of the more interesting starts to the season when the Daytona 500 was postponed until Monday, but those who did tune it in were treated with some very unexpected on-track fireworks courtesy of Juan Pablo and a jet dryer. That night proved to be just the beginning of what would be several “on-track” problems that would result in fireworks.
Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer’s problems at Phoenix resulted in somewhat of a throwback finish to a Cup race when the two teams went at each other in the garage area afterward. It set the stage for a great final race the following week at Homestead-Miami where Jimmie Johnson had put himself in a position to catch Keselowski only to experience problems with his Chevrolet that forced him early to the garage area. It was that kind of year; nobody seemed to really be in control until Keselowski finally pulled out his huge beer mug in Homestead’s victory lane and began his reign at the top of the sport.
2013 will be ushered in this week and with it a new season of racing that promises to be unlike what we have seen in recent years thanks to a new generation of racecar. This may finally be the year that the outcome of a race goes back into the hands of a driver and not what takes place on pit road.
One thing for sure, we will be here ready to start covering all of the action that the new season will provide. Hope this is the year that not only turns out to be the best ever for your favorite driver but also for you and your family!
Have a happy new year!