A Keselowski Clincher
Rarely does a third-place finish forever enshrine a driver in race history, but that was just the case for Brad Keselowski when he clinched his first Nationwide Series championship and the first NASCAR title for the esteemed Penske Racing organization on Nov. 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 26-year-old son of original NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, long-time ARCA Racing Series competitor and K-Automotive Racing owner Bob Keselowski delivered a 24th-top five and 27th top-10 NNS finish in the Lone Star State and will advance to the Nov. 13 Phoenix International Raceway event with an insurmountable 465-point lead in the driver standings over 2007 NNS title winner and now five-time series championship runner-up Carl Edwards.
The new champion set the stage for this season's campaign with consecutive third-place showings in the final series standings the previous two seasons during which he scored a combined six victories, 33 top-five and 48 top-10 finishes. His series consistency continued this season and reached a remarkably impressive level when he reeled off 16 straight top-seven finishes between Feb. 20 and July 2. He took a lead in the standings he would never surrender when he drove to his first of six 2010 victories on April 25 at Talladega Superspeedway.
"First off, it's a family accomplishment. My mom, dad, uncle and whole family have made so many sacrifices for me along the way and put up with me when I got in trouble. I'm lucky to have them.
"I have great people on this whole team Roger Penske has given me. I'm so very fortunate and blessed to have (Crew Chief) Paul Wolfe, Roger and everybody back at the shop who missed their kids' little league games working to get me awesome cars.
"I appreciate the fans and all they do to support us. They keep us going through the tough times," Keselowski said following the clinching effort.
His Nationwide Series success also has provided him residual piece-of-mind and confidence during his challenging first full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. He has generated an average 22nd-place finish on the senior circuit and gutted out 31 events before cracking a race top 10.
"It's been an extremely difficult year on the Cup side. The Nationwide side keeps that pep going to where I get in the Cup car, look everybody in the eyes and say no matter what happens today, I'm going to drive my butt off. I know we can do this. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but I believe we can do this as a team. Without that, you give up, lose hope and things get even worse. We haven't done that, I haven't done that and I'm committed to carrying the success over to Cup side," Keselowski
The No. 22 Nationwide Series team's success also has brought a smile to Penske's face. He captured his first Indianapolis 500 title 14 years prior to Keselowski's birth in 1972 and witnessed his open-wheel drivers enjoy the famous Brickyard victory milk 14 additional times before breaking through with a NASCAR championship.
"I sat in New York so many times seeing Hendrick and those boys on stage. I guess this is the first step for me. It's like winning the first Indy 500. It's a team sport, a team effort and that's why we came here. Paul Wolfe and whole group just worked their heart out and we got the results," Penske said.
The historic moment also made its impact on Wolfe, who competed in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West events from 2000 to 2004 and in the Nationwide Series from 2003 to 2005 before becoming a crew chief.
"The guy (Penske) has done probably about everything in motorsports you can do except getting this championship. It's pretty special to do this for Penske Racing," Wolfe said.
Story by Mike Schmaltz