Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brad Keselowski wins Sprint Cup championship, Jeff Gordon wins race

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
It's Miller Time in NASCAR Nation. Brad Keselowski went toe-to-toe with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and emerged victorious, giving Dodge its first championship since 1975. 

Jeff Gordon earned his 87th win on the
 anniversary of his first start.
Credit Lisa Janine Cloud /Skirts and Scuffs
While Jeff Gordon won the Ford Ecoboost 400 on the 20th anniversary of his first Cup start, Keselowski joined Gordon as the only drivers to win the championship in just their third full season. Only Dale Earnhardt reached that pinnacle sooner; he won his first Cup in his second full season. Keselowski also became only the second Nationwide champion to win the Cup championship; Bobby Labonte did it in 2000, and the only driver to do so with the same crew chief. 

The race itself was much less dramatic than either the Camping World Truck race or the Nationwide race. Only three cautions slowed the race. Kyle Busch led the most laps - again - but couldn't pull off the win. He settled for fourth. 

Lap 206, Keselowski ran out of fuel heading into the pits while Johnson was leading. On Lap 214, fortunes reversed when Johnson pitted but had to return to pit road because of a missed lug nut. While that might not have been the fatal blow to the five-time champion's title hopes, within a few laps the driveline on the No. 48 failed, and Johnson had to head to the garage. Back on the track a short while later, Johnson finished 36th. "We had 80 percent of the Chase that we wanted to have, a ton of momentum late in the season, and then those final two races bit us," Johnson said. 

On Lap 254, Busch and Truex Jr. pitted. Gordon inherited the lead, with the No. 15 of Clint Bowyer behind him. Despite the fireworks between them last week, Bowyer never had the chance to show whether he would have taken any action toward Gordon, the No. 24 was just too fast. 

"You know, I mean there was one restart where I had Joey and maybe even Aric and Clint right there surrounding me and, you know, we -- you know, that thing is going to work itself out some way through racing and, you know, I felt terrible about how I went about it and still regret the way I went about it but you know what, I can't take it back." Gordon said. "What we can do is look forward and race guys as hard and clean as we possibly can and, you know, this is a great way to get some positive things going because this year has been real up and down. This awesome to have my family here in victory lane."

Keselowski finished 15th - the position at which he would have clinched the championship regardless of what happened to Johnson. That was no accident. Their night wasn't flawless, but Keselowski wanted to be sure that the Cup would have been his despite Johnson's misfortune. "I don't enjoy things happening to my competitors that take them out" he said. "I want to beat them on the track." 

Final Chase points standings: 
1   Brad Keselowski 2400    
2   Clint Bowyer         2361   -39  
3   Jimmie Johnson 2360   -40  
4   Kasey Kahne         2345   -55  
5   Greg Biffle              2332   -68  
6   Denny Hamlin         2329   -71  
7   Matt Kenseth         2324   -76  
8   Kevin Harvick        2321   -79  
9   Tony Stewart         2311   -89  
10   Jeff Gordon         2303   -97  
11   Martin Truex, Jr.    2299   -101  
12   Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2245   -155  
Finishing order for the Ford Ecoboost 400: 

FIN ST DRIVER  
1 15 Jeff Gordon  
2 6 Clint Bowyer  
3 19 Ryan Newman  
4 8 Kyle Busch  
5 13 Greg Biffle  
6 7 Martin Truex Jr. 
7 5 Aric Almirola  
8 23 Kevin Harvick  
9 26 Kurt Busch  
10 16 Dale Earnhardt Jr.  
11 18 Paul Menard  
12 4 Carl Edwards  
13 2      Marcos Ambrose  
14 1 Joey Logano  
15 3 Brad Keselowski  
16 9 Mark Martin  
17 35 Tony Stewart  
18 11 Matt Kenseth  
19 33 Jeff Burton  
20 14 Jamie McMurray  
21 12 Kasey Kahne  
22 17 Sam Hornish Jr.  
23 20 Trevor Bayne  
24 41 Denny Hamlin  
25 32 Bobby Labonte  
26 38 Travis Kvapil  
27 30 Landon Cassill  
28 21 Juan Montoya  
29 28 Casey Mears  
30 24 Regan Smith  
31 34 David Ragan  
32 31 Dave Blaney  
33 40 David Gilliland  
34 37 David Reutimann  
35 39 J.J. Yeley  
36 10 Jimmie Johnson  
37 42 Ken Schrader  
38 22 David Stremme  
39 27 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  
40 36 Josh Wise *  
41 25 Michael McDowell  
42 43 Scott Riggs  
43 29 Mike Bliss  

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