2012 Ride: No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge
2012 Primary Sponsor: Miller Lite
2012 Owner: Penske Racing/Roger Penske
2012 Crew Chief: Paul Wolfe
Stats: 36 Starts, 5 Wins, 13 Top 5s, 23 Top 10s, 1 DNF, 1st in Points.
Best Finish: 1st at Bristol (spring), Talladega (spring), Kentucky, Chicago and Dover (fall)
Average Finish: 10.1.
2012 Team Ranking: 1 of 2.
High Point: Kansas, also known as the WreckFest of 2012 and when it became clear the pot o’ gold was sitting inside the Miller Lite No. 2 machine. Well into the Chase, the battle between the ordained prince in the No. 48 and the much discussed wanna-be in the No. 2 was heating up. More often than not, the camera could fit the pair into a single shot. But when Kyle Busch spun right in front of Brad Keselowki’s car coming out of Turn 4, and Brad danced away from the ensuing excitement, he said it himself, “Man, if we win the championship, go ahead and save that part right there, that video clip.
Somehow the pilot of the Blue Deuce just knew more than a winning team was on his side after he missed what should have been a disaster. From then on out, perhaps the No. 2 might stumble, but never as severely as Johnson’s crew. It seemed as if the butterflies of hoping for everything that could be left the Blue Deuce, only to be replaced by the confidence often seen in the Lowe’s garage for more than half a decade. Keselowski was going to win the Sprint Cup in 2012.
Low Point: Las Vegas. It was Keselowski’s turn to put the Daytona 500 behind and drive into Victory Lane…until his fuel pump stopped working coming to the green flag on the fifth restart, allowing Tony Stewart to look wise hoisting the trophy after all was said and done. After the No. 2’s wild ride from Pocono to the end of the year in 2011, 2012 didn’t appear to be shaping up the way it should’ve just three races into the season. One DNF and a failed attempt at a win sat in the stat column for the Miller Racing team. Depressing. And for many an ordinary driver, it would’ve heralded the beginning of another year full of struggles. But not for @keselowski. He had other things on his mind, like turning that DNF into a Never Again.
Summary: When the No. 2 stumbled, it didn’t stay down. And as often noted of championship teams, if you never quit, you’re going to be in the running when the fat lady starts to sing.
Keselowski’s first win of the season occurred at Bristol in the spring, just one week after the failed Las Vegas show. Paired against Kenseth’s No. 17, the race between Matt and Brad appeared a battle of the titans until the final restart. That’s when Keselowski put the pedal down and never looked back. One heck of a way to get over disappointment.
And sometimes you’re just lucky. Win No. 2 came at Talladega. The Miller Lite machine survived the usual plate carnage and a Green White Checker to take this one away. Three arrived in Kentucky, where we talked about things other than traffic. Paul Wolfe decided to stay out on the fourth caution, gaining precious track position that paid off in spades. When you’re half-way through the season and notch half your wins, things are looking up!
First race of the Chase in Chicagoland found Keselowski in Victory Lane once again, perhaps giving notice to the rest of the Chasers he was for real. But just to make sure everyone was paying attention, he repeated the feat two weeks later in Dover. With a head of steam, and that cocky smile, Kes never looked back until he hoisted the silver Cup over his head in Homestead a few short weeks later.
Now those are just the highlights that earn you headlines on the sports pages. What @keselowski achieved for NASCAR in the social media world in 2012 was nothing short of miraculous, and ultimately ironic. During the epic red flag called for a jet dryer inferno during the Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski reminded the planet that NASCAR will be a sport that belongs to the younger generation by Tweeting his boredom from the backstretch. In less than a milli-second he accrued a quarter-million followers, and a whole new way for the sport to connect to its failing fanbase. However, by the time we reached Phoenix in the fall, that phone-in-the-car thing came back to bite our first time Champ with a new “no recording devices in the car” rule. $25,000 later, he’s still Tweeting. But the phone stays with the PR person during the race. Ah well. In any case, Daytona was the Twitter moment to remember in 2012, for the fans and for NASCAR.
It may also be worth mentioning that Keselowski also added three wins in the Nationwide Series with an average finish of 10.9, running 21 races. I guess Stenhouse Jr. should be thankful the Buschwackers can’t claim points anymore.
Off-Track News: Brad Keselowski was named the NMPA Motorsports Spirit Award recipient for the third quarter of 2012. This is in recognition of his ongoing work through his Checkered Flag Foundation, which works on providing support and recognition for our returning war veterans.
2013 Outlook: Sprint Cup Champion. Check. What do we do now? Right, get another one. With the same players for the team signed up for 2013, with only Ford throwing the random wrench into the equation, look for the Blue Deuce to continue to add to its place in the NASCAR history books.
2011 Grade: A-.
2012 Grade: A+.
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