By Patrick Rall
Yesterday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 may have marked the final time
that we will ever see a Dodge product competing in the NASCAR ranks but there
is arguably no better way to leave than with the championship title and thanks
to Brad Keselowski and his #2 Miller Lite crew; that is exactly what Dodge did. After just 10 seasons competing in the NASCAR
Sprint Cup, Dodge announced earlier this year that they would be pulling all
factory support (read: Money) from the major stock car series but unlike some
brands that died quietly like Oldsmobile and Buick, Dodge went out with a bang –
claiming NASCAR’s biggest title for the first time since Richard Petty drove
his Dodge Charger to a championship back in 1975.
Brad Keselowski came into yesterday’s race in Homestead Florida
with a 20 point lead over second place Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Lowe’s Chevy. Thanks to this big lead, BK only had to
finish in the 15th spot to clinch the title while Johnson would have
to win the race – or finish at least 16 spots ahead of Keselowski. In the long run, all that the #2 Miller Lite team
had to do was finish ahead of Jimmie Johnson and they would claim the NASCAR
Sprint Cup title for 2012.
Keselowski got things going his way early, putting his Dodge
Charger in the 3rd starting position while Johnson started several
rows back in 10th. During the
early and middle stages of the race, Johnson and Keselowski battled for
position in the top ten before Johnson moved towards the front of the field and
Keselowski dropped back to the edge of the top ten. For Jimmie Johnson to win the 2012 Sprint Cup
championship, he had win the final race of the season and hope for Keselowski to
finish as far back in the field as possible (16th or worse) and
through the middle portion of the race – things seemed to be leaning Johnson’s
Brad Keselowski’s shot at the 2012 Sprint Cup title appeared
to be in major jeopardy on lap 206 when he informed his pit crew that he had
run out of gas. This forced Keselowski
to coast around the track and into the pits, after which he returned to the
field in the 24th position.
At this point, Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Chevy Impala were in the lead
and things looked bleak for BK but on lap 213, fortune smiled upon the Miller
During a routine pit stop, one of the crew members on Jimmie
Johnson’s team failed to tighten the lug nuts during a round a green flag stops
which forced the #48 car back into the pits to tighten up the wheels. This issue pushed Johnson back into the 25th
position but more importantly, he found himself one lap down. At the same time that Johnson was having his
loose lug nut misfortunes; Brad Keselowski took advantage of the round of pit
stops and moved back up into the 7th position. Johnson, on the other hand, was hard at
working trying to make that lap back up and considering that he had one of the
faster cars in the field during the early stages of the race, it wasn’t out of
the question that he could still make a run at the title.
However, on lap 226, Johnson’s #48 Impala began to slow on
the backstretch and he coasted onto pit road.
After a brief time in the pit stall, the Lowe’s team pushed Johnson’s
Impala back to the garage area where it would spend the rest of the race on
jack stands. The mechanical failure was
determined to be in the rear differential and with his inability to continue –
Brad Keselowski had an leisurely drive to win the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Adding that little extra touch of
championship magic, Keselowski finished in the 15th spot so even if
Johnson had stayed in and won the Ford EcoBoost 400 – BK and his #2 Miller Lite
Dodge Charger would have won the NASCAR championship. Regardless of what happened to Johnson’s
Chevy, Brad, the team and the #2 Charger did exactly what they had to do in
order to win the championship.
For winning the championship, Brad Keselowski took home a
check for $5,662,800. Wow.
While it is
disappointing to all of those diehard Dodge NASCAR fans here on DodgeForum who
likely saw their beloved brand compete in NASCAR for the very last time
yesterday – there is no question that going out as the champion is the best way
to leave. The modern Dodge NASCAR
program lasted just ten years but in the end, the brand made its mark by
winning the 2012 Sprint Cup title and breaking the streak of GM championships
that extends back to the 2005 season.
Congratulations to Brad Keselowski and the crew of the #2
Miller Lite Dodge Charger. You have
given Dodge fans a reason to cheer all season and while many are sad to see you
move on, you gave Dodge fans the ultimate gift of a championship celebration
before turning off the lights at the final Dodge NASCAR shop. On the behalf of everyone at DodgeForum, I
thank you for the years spent under the skin of the Dodge Charger and, ultimately,
for an incredible final season capped by the first Dodge championship in 37
years.Click here to head into the DodgeForum.com Professional Racing section to discuss all of the various Dodge racing venues!