19 November 2012
'The best is yet to come', promises Keselowski
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, flanked by team owner Roger Penske and crew chief Paul Wolfe, was in jubilant mood on Sunday after clinching the title at Homestead-Miami.
"It feels pretty good. It feels really good," said the newly-crowned 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, when he finally arrived - late - for the press conference being in his honour, having sampled rather a lot of the product of his primary sponsor Miller Lite on the way to the media centre.
It had been a long road to this moment, which famously began with his first meeting with Roger Penske in 2008 during which he promised the veteran team owner that if he hired him as a driver, Keselowski would deliver a title to Penske Racing. He was good to his word with the Nationwide championship in 2010, and two years on he's doubled down and delivered Penske the biggest crown in NASCAR competition.
"When he came in and said, 'Look, I want to help you build a championship team,' he looked me in the eye and shook my hand - and that's how we started," recalled Penske. "And there's no question that he's delivered way above what both of us probably thought was possible when you look at the competition and what we have to deal with."
In 2010 and 2011, Keselowski was nominally the junior partner in the driver line up, playing second fiddle to former Cup champion Kurt Busch. But when Busch and Penske parted company after the end of the 2011 season, the team needed the young driver to take over.
"I said to him, 'You're going to be the leader of this team,' and I think that you've seen what's happened - he hasn't missed a step, he's galvanised the team," said Penske. "Never does he miss a day coming in the shop, putting his arm around the guys, and that makes a big difference. You can be a big shot, but you've got to get down on the ground and work with the guys that are doing all this work day in and day out."
Even so, the start of the crucial 2012 season hadn't exactly got under way in the most promising manner, as Keselowski admitted.
"We obviously didn't start at Daytona the way we wanted, got caught up in a wreck, but we knew we had some speed in our cars," he recalled. "As the middle of the season and the spring came through, we had them fuel issues, we rallied deep, found a way through them.
"We didn't have the speed we wanted through the summer but what we did have was execution that was incredible, and I knew it right away," he continued. "The spring Pocono race, do you remember that ... Where we had them troubles with some part on the car and we fixed them and came back from what should have been a 30-something place day and finished like 16th, and I knew right then, those days right there, I knew that if we could do that in the Chase with speed that we could win it.
"Then obviously as Michigan and some of those other races unfolded and we continued to work on our car and showed the speed that we did at Chicago, I knew that we had a shot at it, and obviously winning Chicago was a huge catalyst," he said. "Once we won Chicago, I felt like we could do it. I really did. And I knew that we had the speed. So many mile and a halfs in the Chase and all of them aren't away like Chicago, and I felt like at that moment that we had a group that could get the job done."
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