|Brad Keselowski wins the Sprint Cup Series title, finally giving Roger Penske NASCAR's top prize. (Getty Images)|
There was a time when some thought Brad Keselowski wouldn’t last another season in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions.
Now that line of thinking seems preposterous.
Keselowski has been able to overcome a tempestuous past and early career reputation as an overly aggressive driver to climb to the highest honor in the sport. The 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion hasn’t lost any of his passion or desire in the journey from underdog to champ.
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"I ain't a big guy," said Keselowski. "I'm not the strongest guy. I'm not gonna bench press above everybody else, or do any of those things. There's been moments when I haven't been the fastest guy. Haven't been the smoothest guy.
"But you know what? I've heard that all my life and I've fought through it and it's given me the fuel and the fire to work harder, work smarter, and find a way to win."
Although he didn’t need a win Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he took the green flag in the Ford EcoBoost 400 determined to make it to Victory Lane.
That’s been Keselowski’s approach on a regular basis during this breakout season and he wasn’t about to change it simply because the championship was on the line.
"Pretty damn awesome," said Keselowski. "It’s been one hell of a day. We have a group who rise above adversity. I want to thank my team. We never give up, we fight through everything. As Winston Churchill said, we never, never, never give up."
There’s another thing Keselowski will never give up and that is a respect of his roots. The Michigan native is very well aware of the struggles he’s had to overcome during his racing career, which started behind the wheel of a small budget family operation at local tracks around the Midwest.
Now that he’s reached the big time and the ultimate goal in stock car racing, Keselowski doesn’t plan to stop counting his blessings.
"Means I’m a lucky guy," Keselowski said. "That’s what it means. I have a great owner, a great team, great family. I’m just very, very fortunate."
1. Brad Keselowski -- Last Week 1
Wound up doing just enough to win the 2012 Sprint Cup Series championship and finally give Roger Penske NASCAR’s top prize.
2. Jimmie Johnson -- Last Week 2
It turned out Johnson had a very good opportunity to erase the 20-point deficit he came into the weekend with but failed to capitalize. A pit road mistake and then drive train issues ended hopes for championship number six.
3. Clint Bowyer -- Last Week 5
Not a bad way to wrap up year one at Michael Waltrip Racing with a second place finish in Homestead to lock up the number two spot in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.
4. Kyle Busch -- Last Week 3
Despite leading a race-high 191 laps Busch again was shut out of Victory Lane to end another frustrating weekend in Homestead that saw his eight year mark of Nationwide Series wins also come to an end.
5. Kasey Kahne -- Last Week 4
Some expected more from Kahne in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports but after a slow start he showed much more promise in the second half of the season, which should bode well for 2013.
6. Denny Hamlin -- Last Week 6
Looked at one point like a championship contender but things faded for Hamlin as the Chase wore on. He did end the year on a bit of a positive note to help the off-season mindset.
7. Kevin Harvick -- Last Week 7
Still lots of work to do at Richard Childress Racing but at least a glimmer of hope from Harvick and the No. 29 team, which did perform much better when former crew chief Gil Martin returned to the fold.
8. Greg Biffle -- Last Week 8
The man who came into the Chase after a stellar regular season could not find a groove once the playoff schedule kicked on. Still work ahead for the Roush Fenway Racing team in whole to become more consistent next year.
9. Joey Logano -- Last Week 9
Rode off into the sunset of his Joe Gibbs Racing career with a 14th place finish in Homestead and now readies for his move to the championship-winning Penske team in 2013.
10. Ryan Newman -- Last Week 10
Ended the season in style with a third-place finish as Newman also drove for the final time with the U.S. Army as a sponsor in NASCAR for now.
11. Tony Stewart -- Last Week 11
Nowhere near the excitement for Stewart in Homestead this season compared to his epic championship drive a year ago. Took the final checkered flag of 2012 with a very mediocre 17th place finish.
12. Matt Kenseth -- Last Week 12 The end of Kenseth’s Roush Fenway Racing era wound up with an 18th place finish and this year’s Daytona 500 winner now saddles up for his move to Joe Gibbs Racing.
13. Martin Truex Jr. -- Last Week 13
Notched a top 10 in Homestead to salvage a very disappointing Chase that just could not live up to the lofty performance Truex turned in during the regular season schedule. Still, overall a good year for the Michael Waltrip Racing driver.
14. Jeff Gordon -- Last Week N/R
Was able to put last week’s controversial Phoenix incident with Clint Bowyer in the rear view mirror with his second win of the season. Gordon’s 87th career Sprint Cup victory was the first at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
15. Carl Edwards -- Last Week 15
Was never able to shake the championship runner-up hangover of the year before and Edwards ended a very disappointing campaign with a 12th place Homestead finish.